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FRANK SINCLAIR'S WIFE. 



ANB OTHER STORIES. 



ME8. EIDDELL, 



ArTHOE OF 



GEOEGE GEITH," " TOO MrCH ALONE," " HOME, SWEET HOME, 
"THE EAEL's PEOMISE," ETC. ETC. 



IN THREE YOLUMES. 

VOL. I. 



LONDON: 

TINSLEY BROTHERS, 8, CATHERINE STREET. STRAND. 

1874. 

\_All righU of Translation and Eeproduction are Reserved. 



PEINTED BY TATLOE AND CO., 
LITTLE QUEEN STREET, LINCOLN'S INN EIELDS. 



8e3 ' 

V. 1 



CONTENTS 



THE PIEST VOLUME. 



<i 



XXI, 



HOW THE STEP WAS TAKEN 
GOING BACK . . , , 

ON THE BRINK '. 

" TO HAVE AND TO HOLD " 
AFTER YEARS .... 
COMING STRUGGLES . 
FRANKS RESOLVE 
"home, SWEET HOME." . 
UPON OPPOSITE SIDES 
RESIGNING THE HELM 
PLAYING WITH EDGED TOOLS 

MR. Sinclair's diary 

FROM ANOTHER SIDE 

AN INTERRUPTED SOIREE . 

THE END OF THE SOIREE 

THE PLEASURES OF HOUSEKEEPING 

FROM MRS. SINCLAIR 

MR. MCLEAN TO MR. VARHAM . 

SANE OR INSANE ? , 

MR. Sinclair's diary resumed 

"a GENTLEMAN TO SEE YOU, SIR " 



PAGB 
1 

18 

32 

46 

60 

75 

83 

96 

108 

123 

138 

158 

175 

192 

204 

217 

231 

243 

255 

260 

268 



FEANK SINCLAIE'S WIFE. 



FRANK SINCLAIR'S WIFE. 



CHAPTER I. 

HOW THE STEP WAS TAKEX. 

When, in the face of the assembled popu- 
lation of Mulford-in-the-Weald, Arabella 
Constance Marion, daughter of the Eeverend 
Fitzhugh St. Clair, Eector of Mulford afore- 
said, promised to love, honour, and obey 
Frank Sinclair, I do not think, spite of the 
fact that her uncle, the Dean of Eingleton, 
assisted her father to perform the ceremony ; 
that her mother's second cousin. Sir Arthur 
Landless, gave the bride away ; that the 
Honourable Mrs. Clace, seated in her family 
pew, surveyed the sacrifice through double 

VOL. I. B 



Frank Sinclair s Wife, 



eye-glasses with gold rims, and subsequent- 
ly partook, liberally, so it seemed to Frank 
Sinclair, of lobster salad wHcli he had 
made, and champagne which he had paid 
for ; spite of all these causes for upliftment 
and social exaltation, there is still every 
reason to believe that Arabella Constance 
Marion did not think she was conferring, 
together with her heart and hand, a life- 
long obligation on the man who had wooed 
her successfully. 

On the contrary, the great and the little 
world of Mulford- in -the -Weald thought 
Arabella Constance had taken some pains 
to land her lover, and was proud when, 
after bringing him to shore, she was able 
to exhibit him to the critical gaze of friends 
and neighbours in the character of her 
affianced husband. The eldest but one of 
eleven living children — seven of whom were 
daughters undowered — her chances in the 
matrimonial lottery could not have been 
considered promising, when a far-away rela- 



How the Step was Taken. 



tive going down to recruit his health at 
Mulford remained at the Eectory the greater 
part of the summer, and before the au- 
tumnal fruits were over had proposed for 
and married her. 

Of course, the reader — already, I hope, a 
little interested in the fortunes of bride and 
bridegroom — must be anxious to know the 
particular attraction Frank Sinclair found 
in a lady aged twenty-five, already develop- 
ing bones in unexpected and untoward 
places ; already with a tendency to lines 
across her forehead, and occasionally inclined 
to be snappish towards her brothers and 
sisters. And, as when a writer puts a man 
into print he ought to keep nothing back 
concerning him, it may be simply stated 
that Mr. Sinclair was in the first instance 
drawn to Bella — so her friends called her — 
not by the beauty of her form or face — for 
indeed his eyes had beheld many faii'er 
women — not by the sweetness of her voice 
or the grace of her movements, not by the 

B 2 



Frank Sinclair^ Wife, 



maimer in wMcli, skipping, and repeating, 
and breaking down, and trying back, she 
executed the '^ Invitation pour la Yalse," 
not by the extent of her knowledge, which 
was indeed limited, or by the brilliancy of 
her conversational wit, that in the earlier 
days of their acquaintance could only be 
gathered from a discreet silence ; but rather 
by the persistency with which she made 
the family puddings, dusted the di'awing- 
room knick-knacks of a morning, and the 
quiet perseverance that she brought after- 
noon after afternoon, together with a pile 
of stockings, to one especial arbour in the 
vicarage grounds, where Mr. Sinclair read 
poetry to her, the meaning of which she 
did not understand, and made that ^'honour- 
able and manly" proposal (so Mrs. St. Clair 
styled it), which converted him in due time 
into the husband of Bella and the son-in- 
law of Bella's mamma. 

There were drawbacks to Mr. Sinclair. 
I admit the fact on his behalf here, as he 



How the Step was Taken, 



candidly admitted it to " mamma " then, 
rirst he was not an earl — ^^ not even a 
baronet," as a once popular song states — 
indeed, as the same song proceeds to reason, 
he "was " something much worse : " a man 
with an office in the City, striving to push 
his way, and possessed of only enough of 
this world's goods to support a moderate 
establishment and a wife. 

Like most men, he wanted to marry, for 
those who say men do not wish to marry if 
they could only get what they want are 
most utterly mistaken. In Mr. Sinclair's 
own rank his experience was large, and 
he always declared — and declared, I believe, 
truly — that amongst the young fellows he 
knew, the wish to settle was the rule, the 
desire to remain unsettled the exception. 
But till a man has tried, he would never 
credit that it is almost as difficult a matter 
to find a wife as to get rid of one — that is, 
a suitable wife. Of course, a wife — a vague 
woman whom he may lead off to his wig- 



Frank Sinclair's Wife, 



warn and exalt into his squaw, and make 
the lawful mother of yonng braves, who 
shall throw stones at their neighbours' win- 
dows, and torment their neighbours' cats — 
any one could get for the asking. But 
a suitable wife, an angel at once material 
and celestial, who unites in her own person 
the dream ideal of youth and the more 
prosaic reality of manhood; who, though 
his fairy queen, is still a wise and bene- 
ficent one; who, though pretty, can add 
up her house-keeping book ; who, though 
tender and sensitive and sympathising, can 
yet be strong enough to defy that wile of 
the devil, ^^ What will people say?" who, 
though amiable and confiding, can check 
the tradesmen's accounts, and remonstrate 
with them on the subject of overcharges ; 
who can be at once the valued housewife 
and the dear companion at the domestic 
hearth ; where, oh ! where shall a young 
man, or a middle-aged, or an elderly, lay 
hands on this modern sphinx — where shall 



How the Step was Taken. 



he find a woman both useful and orna- 
mental, or useful without being ornamental, 
or indeed useful at all ? 

Country-bred Mr. Sinclair had a horror 
of marrying a town miss — a creature, as he 
then imagined her, who believed more in a 
new bonnet than in Heaven, whose creed 
was faith unbounded in the necessity of 
following at the very heels of fashion and 
wearing unexceptionable clothes, and who 
only understood the necessity of obeying 
one commandment,, omitted, as she consi- 
dered, from the original decalogue — 

^'Thou shalt dress well and expensively, 
no matter who pays and suffers for it." 

Prejudiced by vivid memories of his 
mother's old-fashioned gowns and familiar 
shawls, reminiscences that brought back 
many a thought of home comfort vanished, 
of dear soft hands outstretched to greet 
" her boy," of eyes full of loving light, now 
closed till eternity, Mr. Sinclair fell into 
the common error of forgetting there had 



8 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

been a time wlieii the old lady he remem- 
bered only widowed, and with silvered hair 
and furrowed cheeks, was a young and 
pretty girl, and as fond, it may be, of a gay 
flower and bright ribbon as the most frivo- 
lous of her sex. 

Time has taught him since those days that 
well-fitting gloves may cover useful hands, 
that feet encased in the most ravishing of 
boots may yet be swift on errands of mercy, 
that busy tongues may yet have their 
moments of sympathetic silence, of tender 
condolence, and that out of very unlikely 
materials very good wives may occasionally 
be moulded. 

At the period, however, at which Mr. 
Sinclair and his fortunes are introduced to 
the reader, Mr. Sinclair considered London 
"hollow, " audits women "make-believes." 
He was not, above mixing in such few 
gaieties as the fates sent him invitations 
for, and he went to parties, and danced, and 
flirted, and made a little love ; but all the 



How the Step was Taken. 



time lie never seriously thought of marrying 
one of the angelic girls with whom he 
waltzed, or of mating with any but a country 
maiden — ^' who will not be above attending 
to her domestic concerns," he mentally added, 
" and who will not think every man she sees 
handsomer and cleverer than her husband ; " 
for Mr. Sinclair did not then know quite 
enough of female nature to understand that 
the mere fact of having bestowed her prefer- 
ence upon him, picked hiin out, so to speak, 
from the hundreds and thousands she desires 
the world to believe sought the honour of 
her heart and hand, makes a woman — that 
is, a non-exceptional woman — believe her 
husband to be handsomer and cleverer than 
the husband of any other of her sex. 

But despite the prosaic and depreciating 
character of his remarks, Mr. Sinclair's was 
an Arcadian vision not unrelieved by the 
contemplation of material comforts. For 
years he had been footless as regarded socks, 
and buttonless as concerned shirts. He had 



lo Fraiik Sinclair's Wife. 

drunk flavourless tea, dined off greasy chops, 
remonstrated in vain on the subject of coffee 
thick with grounds, and been denied even 
that best solace of a forlorn bachelor — a glass 
of something comfortable the last thing at 
night ; because, in the first place, there was 
no boiling water ; and in the next, no water 
could be boiled because the fire had just 
been raked out. 

The man had worked hard and saved some 
money, but Comfort was a stranger unto him. 
Men with large incomes may, no doubt, 
compel her presence even in apartments ; 
but she had not a smile for Frank Sinclair, 
who used to return evening after evening to 
to the same dull rooms where he was wont 
to read the paper or some new novel, and 
smoke his pipe till it was time to light his 
bedroom candle and seek his pillow. 

One young fellow whom he knew in those 
bachelor times slept on fine linen and fared 
sumptuously every day, because the elderly 
widow lady to whom the fates sent him 



How the Step was Taken. ii 

fancied she could trace a likeness between 
his features and those of some dear departed 
Thomas, her only child. But then Mr. 
Frank Sinclair would not have liked land- 
ladies of an uncertain age to occupy their 
leisure in tracing likenesses in his features ; 
and, after all, even muffins nicely buttered, 
and tea hot and strong and aromatic, could 
not quite have reconciled him to tender 
entreaties that he would change his boots 
immediately, and devout hopes that he went 
to church regularly twice on Sundays. 

He was in lodgings, and by no means 
happy. He had dreams indeed — waking 
dreams — of walks through winding lanes 
across dewy fields. He had visions of an 
arch, happy face smiling beneath the wealth 
of wild roses with which he crowned her. 
He thought of a pretty cottage he knew in 
the suburbs, where clematis grew round the 
hall door and honeysuckle climbed up the 
trellis- work ; and pictured to himself, in the 
dull winter evenings, while he sat alone in 



12 Frank Sinclair s Wife, 

his room, lit only by the fire and two com- 
posite candles — while the roar of the London 
traffic came with a sort of subdued murmur 
up from the main thoroughfare into the side- 
street where he lodged — the nest furnished, 
and the bird he had caught in the country 
and brought to the town cage he had made 
pretty for her, sitting with wings compla- 
cently folded — his darling, his treasure, his 
wife. 

He did not then know any girl of sweet 
seventeen whom he wanted to marry, there- 
fore the wicked blue eyes, and the blooming 
roses, and the merry laugh were all parts 
and parcels of an illusion which time never 
realised ; and when, his health being some- 
what impaired by hard work and little relax- 
ation, he went down, by earnest invitation, 
to catch trout in the stream which meandered 
through Mr. St. Clair's meadows, he was as 
heart-whole as any man need desire. 

He was heart-whole, but he wanted a wife 
and a home ; and lo ! there were seven in- 



How the Step was Taken, 13 

cipient wives imder the Eectory roof-tree, 
and the home he beheld there was a happy 
one ; and, without the necessity for much 
allurement, he walked straight into the net 
of the fowler. 

In some distant way the St. Clairs and he 
were connected by blood, but it was a far- 
away cousin-ship, which had been kept up 
chiefly because of the kindly feeling that 
formerly existed between Frank's mother 
and the Eector of Mulford. 

Frank's family had always spelt their 
name Sinclair, whilst the Eector's father 
and grandfather had written theirs St. Clair ; 
but as the St. Clairs pronounced their sur- 
name precisely in the same manner as Mr. 
Sinclair, it does not seem to me that the 
matter was worth the endless discussion 
which took place on the subject under the 
Eectory roof. 

It certainly, however, was a blow to Mrs. 
St. Clairs' s maternal aspirations, that the 
first of her daughters should marry not 



14 Frank Sinclair s Wife, 



merely a man wlio was in trade, but also a 
man who, with every right to spell his name 
in an aristocratic manner, refused point- 
blank to do anything of the kind — indeed, 
proved so obstinate on the subject that, as 
Mrs. St. Clair remarked to her husband with 
a sigh — 

^'- We may as well give it up. He has 
some old-fashioned prejudice on the subject, 
and if we press the matter it will only 
create unpleasantness." 

^^ I don't care what he signs himself so 
long as he is kind to Bella," answered the 
Eector, with a catholic sort of Liberalism 
pleasant to notice in so staunch a Conser- 
vative. 

*^ We need not have any fears about 
that," said Mrs. St. Clair thoughtfuUy ; '' he 
will be a devoted husband." 

And therein the lady chanced to be 
right — indeed it was her absolute certainty 
on that point which reconciled her to trade 
and future years of commercial warfare. 



Hoi'o the Step zi'as Taken, 1 5 

She was ^^ so sure'''' — that was the way she 
put it in yocal italics — she was ^^ 50 sure " 
of Frank Sinclair, she could have forgiven 
him many a worse crime than that of being 
partner in a profitable business. 

Of course Mrs. St. Clair would have 
preferred a different husband for her 
daughter in some respects — as, for instance, 
had Mr. Clace from Old Park ridden oyer 
to lay his lands and money at the feet of 
one of her girls, she would have preferred 
him — but still, as mothers get on in life, 
and girls begin to pass their first youth, 
both are commonly wise enough to dispense 
with much romance, and Mrs. St. Clair was 
honestly glad one of her daughters was 
about to make a fairly eligible match. 

'^ It is not as if he were a stranger," she 
remarked to the Honourable Mrs. Clace, 
*'we have known him since he was a boy; 
and his mother was quite the sweetest 
creature, and the most perfect gentlewoman 
I ever met." 



1 6 Fyank Sinclair s Wife. 

^^ And then it makes such an opening for 
the younger girls," said Mrs. Clace, and 
thus the feminine talk ran on ; the only- 
noticeable thing in the interview being that 
the two ladies went through an unwonted 
ceremony at parting, for the Honourable 
Mrs. Clace proffered the extreme verge of 
her cheek to ^Irs. St. Clair, a piece of con- 
descension to be accounted for only by the 
fact that marriage, like death, seems to have 
the remarkable faculty of causing women, 
for the time at least, to be of one mind. 

" Mrs. Clace was so kind about Bella, 
dear," said Mi-s. St. Clair subsequently to 
her husband; ''' she spoke so highly of 
Frank, and wished Bella all happiness, and 
kissed me at parting:" which was Mrs. St. 
Clair's happy way of putting things, since 
certainly Mrs. Clace had not kissed her — 
only presented her cheek, as before stated, 
for the Eector's wife to touch with her lips 
if she liked; and, judging by the remark 
made to Mr. St. Clair, presumably she had 



How the Step was Taken, 17 

liked — which only proves that in this, as in 
other matters, there is no accounting for 
tastes. 

Having got so far in advance of my story 
as to talk of the wedding before the wooing, 
I must now go back again to the beginning, 
or at least to the day when Frank Sinclair 
reached the pretty country station of Mul- 
ford-in-the- Weald, where the Eector's old- 
fashioned phaeton and fat brown pony, 
driven by Miss Patty St. Clair, the romp 
of the family, together with two noisy lads, 
were awaiting his arrival. 



VOL I. 



i8 



CHAPTER II. 

GOING BACK. 

" Are you cousin Frank ? " was the question 
put to the traveller, while a porter gathered 
his luggage together. 

" I am Frank Sinclair, if he be your 
cousin," said the other with a smile. 

" All right, then," cried the boy ; " come 
along ! The phaeton, and Patty, and Bob 
are waiting for you. Pa could not come 
because he's got a funeral." 

^^ An agreeable announcement within two 
minutes of one's arrival," thought Mr. 
Sinclair, but he held his peace ; and by the 
time he had been a month with these boys. 



Going Back, 1 9 



the ugly word seemed to have lost all its 
significance to his ear, and lie attached just 
as little meaning to the phrase as did Bob 
and Charlie, who looked on deaths and 
burials but as so many inevitable incidents 
in the routine of their father's profession. 

Meanwhile Charlie was shouting to his 
brother and sister — 

<< IVe got him ! Here's cousin Frank ! " 

And the rosy- cheeked girl jumped out of 
the phaeton to greet him ; and Bob, after an 
imperative order to the pony to '^ stand 
still," left his head and rushed forward like- 
wise to welcome their visitor. 

Then what stowing-away of luggage en- 
sued ! How willingly the porter helped to 
place the portmanteau, and fishing-tackle, 
and carpet-bag in the back part of the 
phaeton, where Patty enjoined the boys not 
to put their great feet on the leather ! How 
good-tempered they all were — these cousins 
of his, whom he had not seen for years! 
What stories they told ! what things they 

c2 



20 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

had heard of his doings from their father and 
mother and elder sisters ! 

^'When you were a boy did not you do 
this, and that, and the other, Frank ? " That 
was the way they chatted to him, until 
Patty would playfully threaten them with 
her whip, and declare pathetically that the 
house was a perfect Babel when her brothers 
were at home. 

These are trifling details, and yet, as trifles 
make up most of the happiness or the 
misery of existence, I am forced to dwell 
on them, so that you, reader, may under- 
stand how it came to pass that Frank Sin- 
clair felt at once so utterly at ease with his 
relatives. For inside the Eectory his wel- 
come was just as cordial as it had been at 
the railway station. 

'' I am so glad you have come, Frank ! " 
said Mrs. St. Clair. 

And she put her arms round his neck and 
kissed him, just as his mother used to do — 
only it was not quite the same thing, though 



Going Back, 21 



it was about the best substitute for the 
old greeting that he was ever likely to 
know in this world again — ^while the Eector 
said — 

'^ God bless you, my boy ! you are the 
very image of your mother." 

And when Frank stood silent for a 
moment, unable to answer steadily when 
he found himself amongst those who had 
known her so well, they felt they liked 
him all the better for it, and their hearts 
were with his heart. 

Of all the sunny spots on earth, I think 
that Rectory was the sunniest. Even in the 
winter-time it looked bright and pleasant, 
and now when, after many years, Frank 
saw it in the golden summer-time, he could 
not help owning to himself that it was about 
the sweetest place he had ever seen in all 
his life. 

The rooms were hung with light paper; 
the bed-chambers were miracles of pink and 
white drapery ; the lower apartments Iwere 



22 Fraiik Sinclair's Wife. 

always brilliant with flowers; while the 
garden was full of stocks, and mignonette, 
and sweet-peas, and convolvuli, and roses, 
and honeysuckles, and everything pleasant 
to the sight and grateful to the sense. 

The St. Clairs were poor, but theirs was 
not that griping, hand-to-mouth sort of 
poverty, which is at once so miserable 
and so pitiable, and which is not utterly 
incompatible with even a fairly large in- 
come. Theirs was a small income, but it 
was certain. It was a mere question of 
cutting the cloth, of buttering the bread; 
and the cloth was cut to the best advantage, 
and the butter spread over the greatest 
possible surface. In marrying his wife, 
the Eeverend Fitzhugh St. Clair had secured 
two desirable things — a gentlewoman and a 
capital manager. Wisely she ruled her 
children, prudently she controlled her house- 
hold. There was no idleness in that home, 
no waste in that kitchen; yet there were 
hours of pleasant relaxation, and there was 



Going Back. 2^ 



no pmching at the table of either servant 
or master. 

The only favouritism, if so it could be 
called, consisted in this, that when Mr. St. 
Clair was absent the daintiest morsels were 
set aside for him ; the tit-bits most likely to 
tempt the appetite of a weary man were, by 
one accord, left intact. The sunniest peach, 
the finest apricot, the sweetest strawberries 
were all gathered in love and left on his 
writing-table for him. The very youngest 
child the Rectory held would have run in 
with the rosiest-cheeked apple " for papa, 
mamma," jubilant at having found the 
fruit, and satisfied at keeping for its 
own share some smaller windfall, which 
to the unspoiled palate tasted just as well 
as the best in the land. 

If there were one in the household who 
fell into this arrangement grudgingly, and 
with a certain ungracious assent, it was 
Bella, the second giii; but perhaps this 
might be because, having been a mere 



24 Frank S'mdair's Wife. 

drudge all her later life and taken her 
tasks unwillingly, she could see no beauty 
in her mother's loving self-denial, in what 
Bella sometimes rather bitterly called '' the 
sacrifice of her children to her husband," 
which Mrs. St. Clair practised. 

But the mother was tender, and made all 
allowance for the child, who had never been 
quite so amiable as her brothers and sisters. 
Only once she said to her — 

^^ Bella, dear, if you do not relinquish 
willingly — if it be not more blessed to you 
to give than to receive, I would rather that 
you did not give at all. God loveth a 
cheerful giver, remember ; and his creatures 
do likewise ; not one who giveth grudgingly 
or of necessity." 

^'But it is so hard, mamma; it is just the 
same thing day after day, always doing for 
and considering others, and never oneself." 

'-'- The whole of life is the same thing day 
after day," answered her mother gently. 
''Think of your father's life. Is there 



Going Back. 25 



much variety in it? If lie did not find a 
pleasure in his work he would be most 
miserable." 

'*0h! I do not know about that," said 
Bella. ^-He is out and meets people." 

"And do you not go out and meet 
people?" asked Mrs. St. Clair. 

"Yes, but it is not the same thing, and 
you know it, mamma; but you have no 
sympathy with me." 

" My loye, it is precisely because I have 
so much sympathy with you," answered 
her mother, " that I do not want you to get 
discontented. If you dislike the work you 
have to do, leave it, and Patty or Milly 
shall take your place." 

"But you do not wish them to take it." 

"No; I have always tried to make my 
children's young days as happy as I could, 
so that they might have something pleasant 
to look back upon in after-life. For years I 
did all you are doing now myself, so that 
when you were not at your lessons you 



26 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

might have thorough holiday. However, 
we will compromise the matter — Patty shall 
help you." 

But Bella would not have it. If Patty 
assisted, Patty might take all the credit. 
She, Bella, would continue to dust, and 
make the puddings, and mend the stock- 
ings, and her mother should never hear 
her say another word on the subject. Lis- 
tening to which resolution Mrs. St. Clair 
walked away, a little hurt and saddened 
perhaps, but still not surprised. She under- 
stood Bella thoroughly, and knew that when 
love such as had been lavished upon her 
failed to make her tender and gentle, 
nothing but the rough handling of the 
world would take the taint of selfishness 
and obstinacy out of her nature. 
' And so Bella continued to perform those 
works which she detested ; and Prank 
Sinclair, seeing how utter a di'udge she 
made herself, grew to like and pity her. 
Time went by, and Bella changed con- 



Going Back, 27 



siderably. She grew brighter, she spoke 
more cheerfully, she was more amiable, she 
took a greater pride in her personal appear- 
ance, she ceased to snap at the boys, and 
only blushed when they asked if her ribbon 
were cousin Frank's favourite colour ; if he 
had not told her over-night that he liked to 
see myrtle flowers in the hair. 

She was not romantic, and yet she had 
been garnering certain memories while wan- 
dering on the river's brink with Frank, that 
in the after-time were to her heart even as 
the flowing water, making green where it 
rippled by. 

One afternoon she came in from the 
summer-house rather late for tea, and 
instead of going direct to the dining-room, 
where that usually substantial meal was 
laid, she went to her own apartment, and 
asked one of the servants to tell her mother 
she wanted to speak to her. Whereupon 
Mrs. St. Clair, much troubled in spirit 
because she feared this singular request 



28 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

implied sudden illness, repaired to her 
daughter's chamber. 

" What is the matter, Bella ?" asked her 
mother, as the girl threw her arms about 
her and burst into tears. 

^^Oh, mamma, mamma! I want you to 
forgiye me everything I have ever done 
wrong in my life." 

^^ Bella, you are crazy," said Mrs. St. 
Clair. ^'You know I have nothing to 
forgive, and if I ever had it was forgiven 
at the time. A mother can retain no 
other feeling than love for her child.'' 

'^But, mamma darling, I am so happy, 
and I cannot bear to think I have ever 
made you unhappy. Frank wants to talk 
to you. He has asked me to marry him, 
and I said that I thought neither papa nor 
you would object." 

^'No, dear; and I pray you and he may 
be as happy as your father and I have 
been," and Mrs. St. Clair gathered her 
daughter to her heart and kissed her tenderly. 



Going Back. 29 



And yet the motlier was just a little 
disapjDointed. She had hoped the first girl 
who married would marry well; but then 
she had not expected Bella, the least 
attractive of her flock, to marry at all. 
She was ambitious for her children, and 
yet this was the first at all eligible and 
tangible off'er which had come to one of 
them. It might not be much, but still it 
was a first success. What Bismarck felt 
when he heard of the first victory gained 
by Prussian arms, Mrs. St. Clair felt when 
Bella told her Frank had proposed. It was 
not much possibly ; but in settling a family 
of girls, as in other matters, '' it is the first 
step which costs." 

Mrs. St. Clair did not wish to see her 
daughters governesses, and it was impossible 
for each one of them to marry an earl; 
besides which, she liked Frank Sinclair, 
and was so sure he would be good to Bella. 

Had she been his adviser she would have 
counselled him to seek any other of her 



30 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

children than Bella — even the eldest, Eosina, 
who detested all household occupations, and 
devoted herself openly to Beethoven and 
landscape painting; but, then, he had not 
asked her advice, and Mrs. St. Clair was 
honestly glad to think Bella was going to 
be taken off her hands by a good man. 

She would have liked even a barrister 
better, it is true, not being above the class 
prejudices of her rank about trade, but still 
she was glad — honestly glad — to find her 
least attractive daughter asked in marriage ; 
and she told Frank, with tears in her eyes 
and a little feminine exaggeration in her 
sentence, that his proposal and conduct had 
been " honourable and manly," and that she 
should always look upon him as less her 
son-in-law than her son. 

And then Mr. St. Clair gave his consent ; 
and the next day the whole of Mulford had 
heard the news, and the unanimous opinion 
of the population proved it be that ^^ Par- 
son's daughter was uncommon lucky, to be 



Going Back, 31 



sure." Consequent upon which Frank was 
taken all round the parish, and formally 
introduced to every old woman who had 
ever received beef-tea or a bottle of wine 
from those stores which the Eectory held 
for the use of the sick and feeble only. 



32 



CHAPTER III. 

ON THE BRINK. 

Theee could be no doubt that Mr. Sinclair's 
choice surprised the parishioners of Mulford- 
in-the-Weald as much as it astonished Mrs. 
St. Clair herself. The poor are wonderfully 
sharp-sighted concerning the failings of 
those who are better off than themselves ; 
they have, as a rule, a wonderful instinct 
about character; and all the old men and 
women and young children in Mulford 
knew, quite as well as did Arabella's mother, 
that when Frank proposed he had not 
selected, by any means, the flower of the 
flock. 



On the Brink. 33 



;N"eyertlieless, in the genial atmosphere of 
being engaged — in the delightful occupation 
of being made love to by Frank, and of 
carrying him round the village a willing 
captive tied to her now triumphal car, 
Bella improved marvellously. It must have 
been pleasant for one of eleven to feel that 
she, and she alone, was an object of para- 
mount importance in the eyes of her lover. 
It was a new sensation to know a person 
was considering her and her alone, finding 
his sole enjoyment in loving her — thinking 
only how he could give her pleasure — and 
talking, as they walked along, of those 
happy times to come, when she would have 
nothing to do except manage her own house, 
which Frank intended to make a little fairy 
home for his bride. 

As for Frank himself, hundreds of men of 
his stamp and appearance are to be seen every 
week day morning between nine and ten 
o'clock, walking briskly down Oxford Street, 
or seated on the knife-boards of City omni- 

VOL. I. D 



34 Frank Sinclair's Wije. 

buses — men wlio dress always well, and 
often even fashionably — who are a little 
fastidious about the cut of their coats and 
the sit of their collars, who are given to 
flowers in their button-holes, the newest 
thing in neckties, and sometimes expensive 
breast-pins — who carry themselves well, who 
have a good address and a fail* knowledge 
of the world — as the world is in London 
— and who never show really of what 
sort of stuff they are actually made until 
they marry and turn out either good or 
bad husbands and fathers — either selfish 
and wasteful, or loving, tender, and 
patient, unrecorded heroes in the battle 
of life. 

Given a man, accordingly, not bad -looking, 
who always dressed well, and who was cer- 
tainly much more gentlemanly in appear- 
ance than young Mr. Clace of Old Park, 
and any girl might have been naturally 
proud of such a lover — for which reason, 
and for others previously explained, Bella 



On the Brink, 35 

was exceedingly proud of Frank Sinclair — 
proud as well as fond. 

Did Frank's glove require that proverbial 
stitch in time, needle and silk were at once 
produced. Did Frank think the walk 
through the winding lane would be the 
most pleasant, Bella declared that of all 
routes she should like the winding lane best. 
Did Frank ask if she should like him to read 
to her while she was engaged with needle- 
work, Bella said there was nothing she en- 
joyed so much as being read to. 

And please remember in all this, friends 
and readers, the girl was no hypocrite. The 
glamour of happiness was around her, the 
sunbeams of love fell athwart her path. 
Have you ever, when the world seems very 
bright to a child, seen how he will skip 
along to do your bidding, how he will jump 
and shout and exult because you have given 
him some task ? and have you ever seen the 
same child vexed after a scolding, or sulky 

D 2 



36 Fra?ik Sinclair's Wife, 

because of some disappointmeiit, or dull by 
reason of illness ? 

Arrived at to years of discretion, you 
have, of course, and having looked out over 
the plains of life, and beheld the ways of 
the men and women who pass to and fro across 
them, you understand that adult persons are 
but "children of a larger growth" — children 
who in their whims and caprices are not 
amenable to any human law, who are good- 
tempered when they feel pleased, and dis- 
agreeable when they are displeased, and 
who can produce an enormous amount of 
discomfort in life by the indulgence of those 
"tempers," for wliich we rebuke a child, 
but which we are compelled to endui'e at 
the hands of the wife of our bosom, the rich 
relative from whom we have expectations, 
the principal who pays our salary, and the 
valued servant whom we cannot exactly 
afford to discharge. 

Bella St. Clair — to cut the analogy short 
— was very happy and very pleasant in those 



On the Brink. 37 

bright sunshiny days when Frank asked her 
hand in marriage, and she made herself 
agreeable accordingly ; whilst for him, he 
was the most devoted lover imaginable. 
Following the ancient and barbaric fashion, 
he gave her presents innumerable — brooches, 
and rings, and chains, and bracelets followed 
in quick succession — in such quick suc- 
cession, indeed, that Mrs. St. Clair had to 
raise her maternal voice in earnest expostu- 
lation. 

To a man who has all his life spent little 
on himself, there is an exquisite pleasure in 
spending on others, more especially when 
those others have not been accustomed to be 
so considered, and accordingly Frank Sin- 
clair was "generosity itself' — so Mrs. St. 
Clair said — towards Bella and her family. 

As for Patty, she declared she " grudged 
him to her sister — he was such a dear," and 
indeed there were many older persons than 
Patty who considered that in selecting Bella 
he had chosen neither wisely nor well. 



38 Frank Sinclair s Wife. 

But then these selections are inscrutable, 
and Mr. Sinclair had chosen and was en- 
gaged, and meant very shortly to be married. 

There was no one to oppose his wishes in 
this matter. Both the Rector and his wife 
disapproved of long engagements. After the 
protracted holiday he had taken, Frank 
knew quite well his partner would not 
agree to frequent absences for the future, 
even though he pleaded in justification that 
he desired to see his lady love ; further, he 
had no consents to ask, no friends to consult, 
no settlements to draw. As Eve came to 
Adam, (only with a rather better wardrobe)^ 
Bella was coming to him, utterly 'dowerless, 
whilst on his side he had nothing to make 
over to her. His money was all in his busi- 
ness, and even had he desired to do so, he 
could not have withdrawn any portion of it 
— wherefore the whole affair proved as ut- 
terly Arcadian as can well be imagined. 
After the first general and necessary state- 
ment of his affairs in Mr. St. Clair's library,. 



On the Brink. 39 

the question of ways and means was never 
mentioned, saye between Frank and his 
fiancee^ and then only in that imaginative and 
unpractical manner which obtains amongst 
lovers, when they sit down like children to 
tell fairy stories to each other, or to build 
castles destined never to be inhabited, even 
by themselves. 

It was Mrs. St. Clair who first mooted the 
idea of the newly -married pair going for a 
time into lodgings, and on that occasion she 
made a remark which surprised Frank not 
a little. 

^' Bella does not know much about man- 
agement," she hinted, " and it might be 
quite as well for her not to begin with a 
house of her own. But, of course, you 
know best what will be most conducive to 
your happiness." 

*^Why, I thought all your daughters 
were incomparable managers ! " exclaimed 
Mr. Sinclair. '-'- Indeed, how could they be 
otherwise ? " 



40 Frank Sinclair s Wife. 

^^When they have siich a mother/' fin- 
ished Mrs. St. Claii', laughing. ^^ Why, that is 
precisely the reason for which I should like 
Bella not to take too high a flight at first. 
I have managed for them, and they have 
worked, how well you know, under me — 
but still there is a difi'erence, which I could 
perhaps scarcely make you understand." 

'- ^ Yes, I do understand, ' ' he replied. ^ ^They 
have been, after a fashion, clerks, and you 
principal." 

^' Precisely so," Mrs. St. Clair said, and 
Frank went away, a little thoughtful, to 
sound Bella on the subject; for although 
lodgings might prove more economical, 
still the most imaginative individual could 
scarcely, out of a ^' genteelly furnished first 
floor, with attendance," have even mentally 
realised the visionary home of this man's 
constant dreams. 

He was quite willing to put up with some 
inconveniences, in order to have a home of 
which he could lock the front door at night 



On the Brink. 41 

and consider himself master. Eent and taxes, 
butclier and baker, cook and housemaid had 
no horrors for him, and he ignorantly ima- 
gined that every woman liked to have a 
house of which she could feel herself mis- 
tress, which she might be at full liberty to 
explore from garret to cellar at her own 
sweet will. 

For hours he and Bella had sat discours- 
ing concerning the colour most desirable for 
their drawing-room curtains — whether the 
dining-room furniture should be oak or 
maple ; and he therefore felt little doubt 
that the idea of ^' apartments " would prove 
as distasteful to her as it had done to him, 
for which reason he went away and told 
her just what Mrs. St. Clair had suggested, 
confident that his charmer would at once 
say—' 

"!N"o, dear Frank, please do let us have 
a house of our own — if it have but four 
rooms." 

To his disappointment, however, his 



42 FranJz Sinclair's Wife. 

charmer said nothing of the kind. She remain- 
ed silent for a minute, and then remarked — 

^' I am not sure but that mamma is right. 
I do know very little about housekeeping, and 
I certainly should prefer not being troubled 
with servants, and all that sort of thing, at 
first. I want to enjoy myself for a time — 
that is, if I may." 

^^ Of course you may," he answered; '^ it 
shall be all just as you wish," and he hoped 
she did not notice the disappointment he 
could scarcely conceal. "After all it is 
only natural," he thought, ^'and soon she 
will get as weary of being homeless as I 
am ; " but still the disappointment remained 
— the nest his fancy had built was never 
to be tenanted by the sweet hopes of early 
married life, by the tender memories of the 
time when man and wife are scarcely more 
than lover and betrothed, when all the road 
they are to walk together is before them, 
and they set out hand-in-hand to wander 
amongst the roses that precede the briars. 



On the Brink, 43 

'^ Perhaps it is better," he said to Mrs. 
St. Clair a few days afterwards; ^'when 
Bella has seen the London sights and got 
tired of lodgings, we can then choose the 
furniture together." 

^'You area dear, good fellow," answered 
the lady, laying her hand on his, and to his 
surprise Frank saw that her eyes were full 
of tears ; for he never dreamed she liked him 
so much that she would rather have seen 
him choose any of her children than Bella. 

'^ I hope and trust she will make him a 
loving wife," she said, over and over again ;. 
and her husband, who, unaccustomed to such 
unusual interruptions, and irritated, perhaps, 
by doubts which seemed to him unreason- 
able, and an anxiety which was, to say the 
least, premature, looked up from the sermon 
that had been engaging his attention, and 
answered — 

^^ Pooh ! my dear, the girl will be quite 
loving enough. Why, she cannot bear him. 
out of her sight ! " 



44 Frank Sinclair^ Wife. 

"True; but they are not married yet," 
Mrs. St. Clair replied.^ 

" They very soon will be, at any rate," 
returned the Eector, who felt that his grief 
would not be overpowering when all the 
fuss was over. 

"Yes, and then we shall see," remarked 
the mother — ^which only went to prove she 
knew enough of the world to be aware that 
the fair creature who mends gloves for her 
lover one month, may be averse to sewing 
on a button for her husband the next, and 
that the doting bridegroom who will not 
suffer his wife to pick up even a glove for 
herself, may before the honeymoon have 
passed behold with unmoved stoicism his 
bride, utterly unassisted, wheel an arm-chair 
forward to the fire. 

Lovers ascend to a seventh heaven of 
rapture and civility, but ultimately they 
must return to earth ; and it depends a good 
deal on the tempers they bring back with 
them to the old prosaic business of existence. 



On the Brink, 45 

what sort of an affair existence will prove — 
whether snowy or sunshiny, prosperous or 
the reverse. 

Mrs. St. Clair evidently thought there 
might be some rough weather on the voyage ; 
but then mothers are not invariably the best 
judges of their children's characters, and 
Bella declared Patty was her parents' favour- 
ite. "And I do not think parents ought to 
have favourites amongst their children," she 
finished, an opinion in which Erank entirely 
agreed, for the very simple reason that in 
those days he had not the remotest idea how 
parents feel towards their children, and did 
not know how impossible it is for the even 
balance of love to be held between Hope and 
Grace — between Alfred and Harry. 

But the time was coming when he was to 
know all about that, and a few other things, 
the advent of which he could not very well 
have foreseen when he walked with Bella 
along the winding lanes, and across the 
pleasant fields, of Mulford-in-the- Weald. 



46 



CHAPTER IV. 

*' TO HAVE AND TO HOLD." 

It was the day of the wedding, and every 
member of the St. Clair family had, when he 
or she opened his or her eyes, opened like- 
wise his or her mouth, in order to ask — 
" What sort of a morning is it ? " 
"Oh! lovely," other mouths answered, and 
then there ensued a great stir and bustle in 
the Eectory, for it was not every day that 
seven sisters put on new dresses at onoe, and 
a little excitement was natural, considering 
the unwonted nature of the ceremony. 

No human being, who was acquainted 
with the Eectory, in its pristine state, could 



" To Have arid to HoldP 47 

liave recognised the place as it appeared on 
the morning in question. 

In lieu of pens, and ink, and paper, and 
books, and manuscripts, the library-table was 
covered with glasses, plates, bottles, dishes, 
and all sorts of edibles ready to replenish 
the feast spread in the dining-room — 
where half the parish had already come to 
see the wedding breakfast laid out — which 
the old women pronounced to be '^ beautiful, 
beautiful, sure-ly." 

And certainly the arrangement was taste- 
ful and pretty in the extreme. Baskets, 
edged with ferns, contained the pale pink 
roses of autumn, the rich berries of the bar- 
berry, the bright scarlet clusters of the 
mountain ash, and all late-blooming flowers 
that the Eectory garden could furnish ; whilst, 
flanking on each side the wedding cake, 
were china vases filled with rare and beauti- 
ful exotics that had been furnished from the 
gardens of Sir Arthur Landless and the 
honourable Mrs. Clace. As for the draw- 



48 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

ing-room, Mrs. Clace had sent plants enough 
to convert it into a perfect bower, where 
were enshrined the wedding presents, which, 
when inspected, turned out to be as unmean- 
ing and as useless as wedding presents usually 
are amongst those whom, for want of a bet- 
ter phrase, one is compelled to term the up- 
per middle-class. 

The half-dozen teaspoons, the cut-glass 
decanters with wine-glasses to match, the 
electro-plated tea service, the butter-dish, 
and two vases for the mantel -shelf, so 
familiar to memory as furnishing some 
of the bridal gifts of a different rank, 
were conspicuous from their absence ; and 
in their place appeared a Church Service, an 
article with which, it might have been pre- 
sumed, a clergyman's daughter was already 
furnished ; a gold thimble that looked ex- 
ceedingly like brass, the gift of Miss Land- 
less ; a Lady's Companion; a sofa pillow, em- 
broidered by the fair fingers of Miss Clace ; 
a workbox, '^ with Patty's love ; " a framed 



'^ To Have and to Hold^ 49 

water-colour drawing of the Eectory, ^^ from 
Eosina" ; an inlaid writing-desk, containing 
a note asking Bella's acceptance of the same, 
from '^her affectionate little brothers and 
sisters ; " a cedar- wood glove-box, contri- 
buted by Sir Arthur Landless, who had 
brought it with him from India many years 
previously ; a handsomely bound edition of 
' Proverbial Philosophy,' in which appeared 
Mrs. Clace's own autograph ; a chess-board ; 
a paper knife ; a Parian ink-stand, admirably 
adapted, of course, for the purpose for which 
it was intended ; ^ Lalla Eookh,' in green and 
gold ; a card-basket ; a papier-mache blotting 
case ; a bog -oak Irish cross ; a diamond ring, 
which Mrs. St. Clair had reset for the oc- 
casion ; a pair of ear-rings, once the property 
of Mr. St. Clair's mother ; and, from the 
bridegroom, the sweetest gold chain and the 
darlingest little watch (so said the young 
ladies) that were ever beheld. 

If in the foregoing catalogue any likely 
or usual article has been omitted, the reader 

VOL. I. E 



50 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 



may be quite certain it nevertheless formed 
part of the collection, for all Bella's friends 
and acquaintances had vied with one another 
in doing honour to the occasion; even the 
school-children presented her with half-a- 
dozen anti-macassars, while the grand- 
daughter of a rheumatic old parishioner 
sent up a pair of crochet watch-pockets, 
^^with her duty;" and a young man, who 
as a lad had enjoyed the advantage of hav- 
ing repeated his Catechism to Miss Bella, 
brought her, the evening before tlie wed- 
ding, a fan large enough to have served for 
a parasol, composed of white feathers, and 
trimmed with the eyes from a peacock's 
tail, which fan he had, together with other 
curiosities, brought with him from foreign 
parts. 

Altogether, indeed, the Eectory wore an 
unwonted air of excitement — not to say 
dissipation — ^which might well be, consider- 
ing a girl was going out of it that very 
morning to be married, accompanied by no 



'^ To Have and to HoldP 



51 



less tlian eight bridesmaids, all arrayed in 
sky-blue dresses. 

From the glass door at the back of the 
hall which led into a shrubbery path, that 
in turn conducted to a gate affording ingress 
to the village graveyard," red cloth was laid 
to the very church-door. 

Provision had indeed, been made for rain, 
in the shape of two carriages — one belong- 
ing to Mrs. Clace, and the other to Sir 
Arthur Landless ; but it was felt by the St. 
Clairs that a walking wedding was most 
suitable under the circumstances, and a very 
pretty sight it was to see the bridal party 
pass along the path, lined with school- 
children and the parishioners, each one of 
whom Bella knew so well. 

Before them in the church were Mr. Sin- 
clair and his best man. The group was 
soon arranged, and it was then the Honour- 
able Mrs. Clace surveyed the bride and bride- 
groom through her double eye-glasses, and 
Sir Arthur gave the bride away, and the 

E 2 



u...vu.'.SITY {if 
ILLINOIS library: 



52 Frank Sinclair'' s Wife. 

Eeverend Fitzhugh St. Clair, assisted by the 
Dean of Kingleton, performed that ceremony 
which converted Miss Arabella Constance 
Marion St. Clair into Frank Sinclair's wife ; 
all of which facts have been duly recorded 
in the first paragraph of this story. 

Altogether it was a very happy wedding 
and wedding breakfast ; and when after the 
breakfast and changing her dress, Bella 
came down to go out into the world and 
commence her new life, Frank, seeing how 
she wept at bidding farewell to her friends, 
how she stopped on her way to the carriage 
to shake hands with this old parishioner and 
that favourite school-child, felt he had in- 
deed secured a treasure, and thanked God 
for the blessing vouchsafed. 

*' My darling," he said, as they drove off, 
*' do not fret so much : we must have them 
all to stay with us." 

'' Oh ! Frank, you are so good," Bella 
answered. 

*' Who could help being good to you ? " 
he replied. 



'^ To Have mid to HoldP 53 

And then Bella laughed through her 
tears, and said, '^Many people :" and so their 
courtship ended, and their married life 
began. 

Meanwhile, at the Eectory, the festivities 
were continued throughout the day, for the 
poorer parishioners had been invited to par- 
take, at five o'clock, of a feast consisting of 
strong tea well-sugared, and immense slices 
of cake, which were duly dispensed and 
distributed by the bridesmaids, the grooms- 
man, the boys, and such of the wedding 
guests as kindly remained for the purpose. 

Amongst the latter was young Mr. Clace, 
just returned from college, who, disregarding 
his mother's signs, and nods, and hints, per- 
sisted in staying behind, captivated clearly 
by Patty's pretty face, and Patty's natural 
manners. 

" Now, Harry, remember, I will have no 
nonsense, I will never have anything of the 
sort ! " said the somewhat arbitrary lady, 
when her son handed her to her carriage. 



54 Frank Smclair'^s Wife. 

after promising to return to Old Park in 
time for dinner. 

"Surely, mother," lie answered ^'it will 
be time enough for you to withhold your 
consent when I ask it," which caused Mrs. 
Clace inwardly to wish that clergymen were 
forbidden by law to marry, or, at least, to 
have marriageable daughters. 

" Oh, dear ! " said Mrs. St. Clair, as she 
laid her head on her pillow that night ; "I 
am so thankful it is all over; and I hope 
and trust they will be happy ! " 

" The proof of the pudding is in the 
eating," answered Mr. St. Clair, philoso- 
phically, for he was sleepy, and unac- 
customed as he was to wine, champagne 
had caused him to take more cheerful views 
of life than those in which his better-half 
seemed disposed to indulge. 

" Yes, and what I want to know," said 
Mrs. St. Clair, '^ is how it is going to eat." 

*'I cannot imagine why you think they 
are going to be wretched," Mr. St. Clair 



'^ To Have and to HoldJ^^ 55 

roused himself sufficiently to remark ; ^^ it 
seems to me they have every reasonable 
chance of happiness." 

And, indeed, as time went by, it appeared 
as if the Eector were right, and his wife 
wrong. Letters arrived from both bride and 
bridegroom — chappy, pleasant letters, which 
it rejoiced the mother's heart to receive — 
letters written during the honeymoon, and 
after their return to London ; filled first 
with descriptions of foreign travel, and sub- 
sequently with accounts of the wonders of 
London. 

^^ Frank is coming home early to take me 
out," so the text of most of these epistles 
ran ; ^^ we went last night to the Olympic ; we 
are going next week to Drury Lane. Frank 
wants to know when you can spare one of 
the girls to come up. He fancies I must be 
often lonely when he is away, and, indeed, 
dear mamma, I do miss you all dreadfully. 
Could not Patty spend the winter with us ? 
Frank would be delighted!" Which was 



56 Frank Sinclair'* s Wife, 

indeed true, for already Frank found it 
might not be always possible for bim to 
return home early, in order to take his wife 
out ; whilst, on the other hand, he knew she 
must often lack occupation, and amusement, 
and companionship in his absence. 

" When we have a house of our own, she 
will find plenty to do," he considered, and 
meantime he was honestly glad to hear that 
Mrs. St. Clair intended to let Patty come. 

^^She will be out of the way of young 
Clace," explained Mrs. St. Clair to her 
husband — for since the day of the wedding 
Mr. Clace's visits had grown frequent, and 
those of Mrs. Clace infrequent — '-'• and I do 
not want any child of mine to marry into a 
family where she would not be properly re- 
ceived," finished the lady, with a proper 
spirit, to which the Eector replied — 

" You may be very sure she never would 
be welcome at Old Park, so you had better 
send her for a couple of months to Bella." 

Accordingly Patty went to London, but 



" To Have and to Hold:' 57 

returned at the expiration of six weeks on 
the plea of ill-health, strangely silent con- 
cerning her visit. 

"Did you not enjoy your visit, Patty?" 
asked her mother, marvelling both at her 
changed face and her singular reticence. 

^^Oh! London is a wonderful place," 
Patty answered; '^and Bella wished me 
to see everything, and Frank was very 
kind about taking me out, but I got tired of 
it, mamma. After all, London is not like 
the country, and Bella's house is not like 
home ; but that is not her fault, for how can 
any lodgings be like one's own home ? I 
do hope if ever I marry I shall have some 
quiet little cottage in the country." 

" I hope, love, you have never wished to 
be at Old Park," said her mother gently. 

"No, indeed, mamma. Mr. Clace called 
at Frank's while I was in London, and I told 
him it could not be, even if I cared for him, 
which I did not ; and I hope you and papa 
will not be vexed with me for refusing him." 



58 Frank Smclair'^s Wife, 

^'My dear, I would not have had you 
accept him for any consideration." 

'•'- Well, I thought you would not, after 
the way Mrs. Clace has behaved towards us 
all ever since Bella's marriage; but Bella 
used to scold me about it, and yet I do 
not think she liked his asking me. Lat- 
terly she was always cross and irritable, 
more especially when Frank's partner began 
calling in the evenings. She used to be 
pleasant enough before him, but the next 
day she would say I flirted, and ask me how 
many more lovers I wanted; and then I 
sometimes grew cross, and altogether I 
thought it better to come home." 

^^ Patty," said her mother, ^' I do not 
wish you to go into a house, and then talk 
about what happens in it; but I should 
just like to know if Bella and Frank are 
happy." 

'•'' I think so," Patty answered ; " but it is 
only because Frank has the temper of an 
angel. If I were a man," she added 



^^ To Have and to HoldP 59 

vehemently, " and married to Bella, I would 
not endure her nasty temper and dis- 
contented ways for five minutes — that I 
would not ! " 

Which must have proved very consolatory 
to Mrs. St. Clair. 



6o 



CHAPTER V. 



AFTER YK\RS. 



It takes a man or woman a long time to 
acknowledge that he or she has matrimo- 
nially made a mistake — mentally, I mean ; 
since no person who is not a simple idiot, or 
who is not seeking to deceive him or her self 
in the pursuit of an unlawful attachment, will 
ever make such an acknowledgment other- 
wise — and thus it chanced that many a year 
passed away before Prank Sinclair fairly 
and fully acknowledged, in the depths of his 
own heart, that the Bella who had now the 
making or marring of his happiness was not 



After Years, 6i 



exactly the Eella he had idealised to him- 
self in the sunshiny days at Mulford. 

At first, when he found his wife peevish 
and discontented, resentful concerning his 
slightest shortcoming, blind to the personal 
sacrifices he made in order that she might 
be happy, he framed excuses for her — as 
loving men and women will frame excuses 
for those dear to them, till all their patience 
and most part of their affection is ex- 
hausted. 

Much sooner than women perhaps — be- 
cause they more fully imderstand this wicked 
world and the ways thereof — men grasp 
the fact that the only real friends they 
are ever likely to possess are those of their 
own household ; and Frank Sinclair, who 
longed with an intense yearning for utter 
sympathy, and entire one-mindedness be- 
tween himself and his wife, left no stone 
unturned to try and bring about a perfect 
understanding. 

There was nothing in the earlier days of 



62 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

his married life that he did not confide to 
her ; his hopes, his fears, his anxieties, his 
successes ; but when, as time went by, he 
found that the things which perforce inter- 
ested him were considered tiresome by his 
wife, he gradually curtailed his confidences, 
and ended, as so many husbands do, by 
closing his lips concerning business when he 
locked his office door. 

And yet the pair were happy enough — 
very happy, perhaps, as times and wedded 
experience go ; but the reason for this hap- 
piness certainly was that Frank had — as 
Patty expressed it — the temper of an angel, 
which caused him to try to make excuses 
when there were actually none to be found, 
and to meet selfishness and iiTitability with 
that soft answe;- which, if it did not exactly 
in his case turn away wrath, prevented an 
unseemly exhibition of it. 

They had long left the ^' comfortably fur- 
nished apartments " — where, as Bella said, 
^4t was so horrid to sit all alone from 



After Years. 63 



morning till night" — and taken up their 
abode in a house, which was a very good 
house of its kind, though certainly as dis- 
tant from Frank's ideal of a home as Bella 
proved to be from his ideal of a wife ; but 
still, people who have any contentment in 
their natures learn to be satisfied in time 
with what they can get ; and in lieu of roses 
and honeysuckle, of a modest cottage and 
homely rooms, Frank accepted a stuccoed 
dwelling in a pretentious terrace, with a 
long strip of garden groimd at the back 
and a short strip of garden ground at the 
front. 

It was a long way from his business — 
so long, indeed, as to necessitate a weary 
journey morning and evening; but then, 
as Bella truly said, when the question 
of locality was first mooted, ^^ We ought to 
live in some place where our friends can 
come to see us" — meaning that if any un- 
fashionable suburb were selected, it was 
not to be expected that those notables of 



64 Frank Si?iclair^s Wife, 

Mulford-in-the-Wealcl, who spent the season 
in London, would call once during its con- 
tinuance on Mrs. Sinclair. 

There was a certain amount of reason in 
this observation, and Frank acknowledged 
it. A time comes in all married lives when 
the man and the woman have for many- 
hours in each day to seek their occupations 
and amusements separately, and certainly 
Mr. Sinclair had no desire that his wife 
should live in entire seclusion, or that she 
should be debarred in any way from the 
social advantages to which she was clearly 
entitled by virtue of Sir Arthur Landless 
and the Dean of Eingleton. 

But still, admitting all this, he thought 
there was no necessity for her to have based 
the argument upon the entirely suppositi- 
tious statement that he had his friends in 
the City, and plenty of excitement to amuse 
and interest him. 

^' I do not know much about the amuse- 
ment, dear,'' he answered; "the happiest 



After Years, 65 



hour of my life is when I leave the office 
and turn my face homeward." 

To which Bella replied, with a certain 
gratification in her tone, despite the ungra- 
ciousness of her words, "Men always say 
that." 

" And mean it too, very often, I hope," 
added her husband; " at least, I can speak 
for myself; whatever else you may doubt 
in the future, never doubt my love for 
home and you." 

His tone was earnest — so ea*mest, indeed, 
that Bella, remembering the days of their 
sweet love-making, rose, and, brushing the 
hair back from his forehead, kissed him 
more affectionately than was her wont. 

"I never have doubted it," she said, 
" and I never shall." 

And so the twilight deepened, and the 
husband and wife sat silent, hand locked in 
hand. 

IS'evertheless, Bella Sinclair was not one 
to believe very implicitly in anything ex- 

VOL. I. F 



66 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

cepting herself, and she had never yet 
breasted any trouble high enough and strong 
enough to shake her confidence in her own 
infallibility. 

To a different man she might have made, 
perhaps, a different wife ; but if devotion 
and unselfidiness cannot win both in return, 
what are we to think of our humanity? 
And when the evil days came and division 
ensued, it was the thought of all Frank's 
love, of all his unappreciated tenderness, 
that touched the woman's heart and pricked 
the woman's conscience, and brought such 
peace to the household as it had never 
before known. 

So long as he is prosperous, a man's 
domestic gods may be propitiated. These 
gods are fond of votive offerings, they 
like the worshipper who returns with his 
hands full of the spoils of the enemy; 
but once let the tide of battle turn, once let 
the man, hunted and exhausted, run into 
the sanctuary for comfort and rest, and the 



After Years. 67 



domestic gods, as a rule, fail, and the van- 
quished finds he has been worshipping all 
the time vain idols, who have no power of 
consolation in the hour of need ! 

For years worldly matters went smoothly 
enough with the Sinclairs ; true, Frank 
thought his wife might have managed 
better on the allowance he made for house- 
keeping; but he was not a man to brew 
misery out of pence, or even pounds, and so 
he never worried Bella's soul with com- 
plaints concerning underdone mutton or 
weak tea. 

He honestly believed she did her best for 
him, and if the best was bad, why, he knew 
it was all he was ever likely to get. Women 
are not to blame because Heaven has not 
made them clever housekeepers, any more 
than men are to blame because they cannot 
act, or sing, or paint. 

For my own part, I believe it requires 
just as much true genius to manage a house- 
hold properly as to take the command of an 

F 2 



68 Frank Sinclair'^ s Wife, 



army. The strategetical part is, of course, 
rarely required, save when arranging the 
rival pretensions of nurse and cook, house- 
keeper and lady's-maid ; but the organisation 
is precisely similar. Bella Sinclair, however, 
did not organise ; she spent — and spent 
uselessly — and -Frank perforce had to be 
satisfied. 

The man's first real pecuniary trial came 
about in this wise : — 

His partner — his senior partner, re- 
member — who had exhibited a little tendresse 
for Patty, which attachment Bella nipped in 
the bud, married, and from that hour there 
was greater dissatisfaction than ever in 
Briant View Terrace ; and the result pro- 
duced by the dissatisfaction will be best ex- 
plained by a conversation which took place 
some four years subsequently in the City 
oflBce. 

"Sinclair," said his partner, Mr. Yarham, 
one afternoon, when the clerks had gone and 
the managing man was putting on his top- 



After Years, 69 



coat, ^* if you are not in a hurry I should 
like to speak to you for five minutes." 

Whereupon, greatly wondering, Frank 
repaired to his senior's private oflS.ce. 

" We have worked together for a good 
many years," began Mr. Yarham, affcer 
closing the door, ^^and we have never, so 
far as I remember, disagreed during the 
time ; hut I think it better we should now 
dissolve partnership, and I want to know how 
it shall be — shall I leave or you ? " 

'^ What have I done ? what have I left 
undone?" Frank gasped, for he had not 
been prepared for this blow, and it took 
away his breath. 

'^ You have done nothing, left nothing 
undone," answered Mr. Yarham ; ^' but we 
had better separate. I suppose I may speak 
freely to you, and say our wives cannot 
stable their horses together, and never will. 
Your wife thinks we have too much out of 
the concern ; my wife thinks your wife has 
no right to inquire into her pin-money, since 



7© Frank Sinclair s Wife, 

she had a fortune of her own. Now, you 
understand, all this has nothing to do with 
you and me individually, only we must 
separate. I cannot stand the home indigna- 
tion ; you, possibly, go through the same 
business. For myself, I cannot see what 
legislation could do in such a matter, and at 
all events, for the present legislation has not 
attempted to interfere. Parliament cannot 
forbid marriage ; it cannot ordain that one's 
wife shall live two hundred miles away from 
her husband's office, and even if it could, 
she would still know the price per yard 
another woman paid for her dress. I am 
not blaming you, remember, or Mrs. Sinclair, 
or Mrs. Yarham ; all I say is, my life shall 
not be made a burden to me by reason of 
women's quarrels. So, now, how is it to be ? 
"Will you leave, or shall I ? Will you take 
a sum, or give a sum ? " 

At which direct question Frank stood 
aghast. He could not contradict the truth 
of a single word his partner said, and yet 



After Years. 71 



until that moment, as he told him, a thought 
of their parting company had never crossed 
his mind. 

^^But, then, you are long-suffering," 
remarked Mr. Yarham, " and I am not." 

^' I am not aware that I have anything 
to suffer," said Frank, a little stiffly, 
although at the moment memory recalled 
many a mauvais quart d'heure he had endured, 
hearkening to how " those Yarhams are rob- 
bing you ! " 

" I did not say that you had to suffer, but 
I have," retorted Mr. Yarham, who, believ- 
ing his wife could do no wrong, had no 
objection to making himself out a martyr. 
"I have suffered for a long time in fact; I 
have waited in hopes of things mending ; 
but things do not mend, and as our children 
grow older matters will get worse. There 
will be jealousies and heart-burnings, and 
Heaven knows what, between our woman- 
kind ; so now, Sinclair, without any ill-will 



72 Frank Sinclair s Wife 



or disagreeable feeling, let us face the diffi- 
culty and see what is best to be done." 

^' I would not for anything it should ever 
have come to this," said Frank vehemently. 
^' Think of the years we have worked to- 
gether ! " 

'^ Ay, my boy ; but we have taken to our- 
selves wives, and that makes all the differ- 
ence. It is natural for us to marry, and it 
is natural for the ladies — God bless them ! — 
to quarrel. Shall we interfere with the 
arrangements of Nature ? Heaven forefend ! 
So now, Sinclair, we have arrived at a 
point where our roads must diverge ; shall it 
be you to branch off, or shall it be myself?" 
and Mr. Varham leaned back in his chair, 
and put one leg across the other, and looked 
at Mr. Sinclair not without a certain em- 
barrassment as he spoke. 

"You are the senior," Frank answered, 
*' and it should therefore be for you to state 
your wishes." 

" I have none," was the reply. ^^ I can 



After Years. 73 



go, or I can stay ; I will pay you out, or be 
paid out, making the terms as easy for you 
as I can. My wife, as you are aware, lias 
some private means and very rich relations, 
so it shall be just as you like. Either you 
stay and I go, or I stay and you go, without 
prejudice ; that is to say, each having as high 
an opinion of the other as formerly — higher, 
perhaps." 

''Is it unavoidable?" Frank asked, after 
the manner of one who gropes about to find 
some help he is unable to grasp. 

'' Quite, and I am sorry for it," Mr. 
Varham answered. 

And then the pair shook hands. 

"Which was the best for him to accept ? — 
All the way to Kensington Mr. Sinclair 
debated this question. Should he give or 
take, buy or sell ? He would have liked to 
ask his wife, but he knew she could not 
refrain from digressing into tirades concern- 
ing theexpensiveness of Mrs.Yarham's dress, 
the luxuriousness of Mrs. Yarham's habits. 



74 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

^^ Never rises till noon," was one of Bella's 
accusations. 

^^But, my dear," suggested Frank '^yon 
are not generally down for breakfast." 

" She has only one boy," urged Bella. 

^* As years go by she will probably have 
more," Frank was wont to answer ; and 
this was just one of those conversations he 
felt he could not in his then mood endure 
with equanimity. 



75 



CHAPTER VI. 

COMING STRUGGLES. 

There are some persons whose ordinary talk 
has just the same effect upon a mental wound 
that a medical plaster has upon a physical. 
It keeps the place raw, it irritates beyond 
all reason. A man shrinks from it as he 
might from a charge of cavalry or discharge 
of musketry. Since, look you, men can 
endure the cannon's mouth sometimes better 
than a woman's tongue. 

Frank Sinclair could, at all events, and 
for this reason he said nothing to his wife 
concerning Mr. Yarham's proposition ; but 
lay awake all night, considering which path 
he had better decide to take. 



76 Frank Sinclair'' s Wife. 

If he took the one he should, to be sure, 
have a certain sum of money ; but, then, it 
would be needful for him almost to com- 
mence again to rear a business edifice there- 
upon. A man, if he have a certain family 
of four, and an uncertain family of fourteen 
possibly to follow, cannot easily afford to sit 
down for life on a small fixed income ; and 
Mr. Sinclair knew quite well that if he let 
himself be paid out, he should have at once 
to find some other commercial investment 
for his money likely to yield a large per- 
centage. 

Looking at the matter from a different 
point of view, if he paid out Mr. Yarham he 
should for a long time find himself, pecu- 
niarily, most seriously crippled; and yet, 
after much thought and deliberation, this 
was the course he decided to adopt. Not 
for one instant did he contemplate taking in 
another partner ; better any harass in the 
City, welcome any struggle rather than the 
trouble of hearing his wife's complaints of 



Coming Struggles. 77 

unfairiiess, of listening to her recital of petty 
annoyances — of petty feminine jealousies. 

No ; he would pay as much as he could, 
and borrow as much as possible, and owe as 
much as Mr. Yarham could conveniently 
allow. It was a mere question of time and 
work, he comforted himself by saying. The 
business was a good busines, and in time, no 
doubt, it would all turn out for the best. 
And so the affair was concluded, and the 
partnership hitherto subsisting between 
Alfred Yarham and Francis Sinclair was 
dissolved, by mutual consent, and duly 
gazetted. 

^'lam so thankful!" exclaimed Mrs. 
Sinclair, when sh e heard of it . ^ ^ IS'o w you will 
be able to keep what you make for yourself." 

^^ I shall not be one sixpence better off, 
probably, for years," answered Frank, a little 
bitterly, '^ and shall have to work twice as 
hard." 

" Oh, that is all nonsense ! " remarked 
Mrs. Sinclair. ^' I do not believe ]\Ir. Yar- 
ham ever did any work." 



78 Frank Sinclair'' s Wife. 

'' My dear, you were not at the office to 
know," Frank mildly expostulated. 

'* [N'o, but I am quite certain of it, notwith- 
standing," was the peculiarly feminirie, and 
therefore utterly unanswerable, reply. 

From that time Frank Sinclair's troubles 
commenced ; but they gathered about him 
slowly. It was not any one great loss, or 
any particular panic, that made him a poor 
man ; but the constant drag of interest to 
pay, of larger salaries to give, of more work 
to do, that made his life about that period 
one long anxiety. 

Never before in his memory had every- 
thing rested entirely on his own shoulders, 
depended altogether on his own health and 
exertions. As a very young man he had, 
indeed, assisted his mother's modest income ; 
but she was not wholly dependent upon him, 
as the pregnant hampers, laden with good 
things, that arrived from her little cottage, 
and gladdened the hearts of those landladies 
who kindly took charge of their contents 



Coming Struggles, 79 

for Frank — levying large tolls by the way — 
went to testify. After her death he had no 
one to be anxious for. He worked himself 
into a partnership in a moderately successful 
business, where an older and more expe- 
rienced man took the principal lead, and 
whilst he and Mr. Yarham continued 
together he had never really known the 
actual meaning of an hour's uneasiness. 

Now the case was altogether different : 
with an increasing family, a wife who seemed 
to grow daily less and less capable of making 
the best of their means, and an establishment 
the expenses of which were certainly rather 
beyond than within his means, he soon found 
anxieties for the present and the future 
crowding into his City office, following him 
through the streets, mounting with him to 
the knife-boards of West-end omnibuses, 
and rousing him at night from the sleep he 
so much needed after the labours and troubles 
of the day. 

Frank Sinclair gi^ew older visibly, and 



8o Frank Sinclair s Wife. 

more irritable certainly. For his temper 
was angelic no longer. Even Patty — still 
unmarried — who came at rare intervals to 
pass a few days with them, could not help 
noticing that, and the reason for the change 
was not, perhaps, far to seek. 

He had an anxious time of it in the City, 
and when he returned at night it was to a 
miserable, untidy home, ^^ where there is 
never a comfortable meal ready for him, 
mamma," Patty declared. ^^ Bella says he is 
so uncertain in his time that it is of no use 
having anything prepared. I assure you, 
one day when Bella was off visiting some new 
friends she has made (horrid people, I call 
them) I got the cook to have late dinner — a 
nice little dinner — and Prank seemed quite 
surprised and grateful. I spoke to Bella 
about the way she neglects him and her 
children, and we quarrelled, and I never 
intend to enter her doors again." 

" My dear Patty," expostulated her 
mother, ^^ you cannot wonder at Bella's re- 
senting your interference." 



Coming Struggles, 



'^ Well, it would be impossible for me to 
be there and not interfere," Patty retorted. 
'' She has got into a clique who seem to 
beKeve all men are little better than either 
monsters or fools. I do not really, stupid 
as Bella is, think she would be so bad if it 
were not for the set of people she has about 
her. I am sure it used to go to my very 
heart to see Frank come home tired and 
jaded at night, and Bella generally off to 
some party ; and whether she was at home 
or not, nothing comfortable or pleasant. As 
for the children — and darlings they are, 
the very sweetest pets I ever beheld — she 
takes no pride in them at all : theii* dresses 
are torn, and they have no nice, pretty 
clothes ; and if it were not for their nurse, 
who *is only a girl, I believe they would 
never be washed, for Bella is far above 
looking after her children. I used to mend 
their things till I saw she did not like it ; 
and, oh ! mamma, it is completely wretched. 
I cannot think how Frank bears it even as he 

VOL. I. Gf 



82 Frank Sinclair^ Wife, 

does. I am sure I should leave her. There, 
I never saw such a house ! Often when I 
was in London I thought about the evening 
before she was married, when she collected 
all the unmended stockings and piled them 
in her basket, and put the lid on, and said, 
* I have done with you, and I hope I shall 
never have to darn another pair.' And I 
do not believe she has. I think she wears 
them till they will hold together no longer, 
and then buys new." 

^^Did Bella say so?" asked Mrs. St. 
Clair. 

^' Yes, indeed. I thought I told you at 
the time." 

"!N'o," her mother answered; ^^ and I 
wish you had not told me now." 

And she turned away with tears in her 
eyes, sick at heart to find how much stronger, 
in some persons, nature is than training, 
selfishness than duty. 



S3 



CHAPTEE VII. 

feai^k's resolve. 

One summer's evening, ten years after bis 
marriage, Frank Sinclair left his office with 
the intention of walking home. It was plea- 
santly cool after the heat of the clay, and as 
he had scarcely moved from his desk since 
early in the morning when he came into the 
City, the prospect of a walk, even through 
familiar thoroughfares, between endless rows 
of houses, seemed pleasant to him. 

'No person who has not been in a strug- 
gling business, can imagine the relief of 
mind it is to a man to feel that even for one 
hour the pressure is relaxed, that toward 

G 2 



84 Fraiik Sinclair's Wife, 



to-morrow lie need not look forward with 
dread ; and after years of anxiety, after days 
and nights of hard thought and painful 
work, Frank Sinclair was able at last to say, 
^^ The battle is over, and I have won." 

For the battle was over, and the fight 
won so far as this, that in pecuniary matters 
he was the day forward instead of the day 
behind ; that he had the typical five-pound 
note in hand without which no City man 
can be pronounced happy ; that he was, still 
to speak allegorically, able to hatch his 
chickens before going through the process 
of counting them. Consequently, so far as 
a tranquil mind concerning business could 
tend to make him happy, Frank Sinclair 
might that summer's evening have been 
so called. 

But he had other and nearer causes for 
anxiety than any mere pecuniary affair ; and 
now that the strain of business pressure was 
relaxed, that the entangled skein of com- 
mercial matters had been made compara- 



Frank! s Resolve. 85 

tively smoothj the man could not help 
thinking abont home and home sorrows ; 
about his wife who was no helpmate ; about 
his children who were neglected ; about his 
house which was wretched ; about domestic 
extravagance which had added in no small 
degree to increase the troubles he had been 
daily called upon to endure, in that modem 
pandemonium where men pant out their 
lives and peril their souls, not for wealth, 
not even for competence, but just for the 
sake of a mere subsistence, the bread of 
which is bitter to the palate, and the waters 
whereof are briny to the taste. 

It takes a man or woman a long time to 
confess that he or she has made just that 
one mistake which is utterly irrevocable. 
Old recollections, the fond memories of 
tender words whispered when the dusty 
roads of life were still untraversed, when it 
was all greensward under-foot, and blossom- 
ing roses over-head ; the very dread, it may 
be, of the thought of the way still to be 



86 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

traversed with an uncongenial companion : 
all these things conspire to induce human 
beings to make the best of their bargain, 
and to lay the fault of domestic unhappiness, 
as long as possible, on any cause save that of 
utter unsuitability. 

Frank Sinclair had striven to do this, at 
any rate, and even as he walked home that 
evening he made excuses for the woman 
who was his wife, and vowed, if it lay in 
his power to make a better thing of the 
future, the future should be better than 
the past had proved. 

Only, how was he to set about it ? Be- 
tween them there had grown up insensibly 
a barrier, strong in precise proportion as it 
was indescribable. 

Arabella had indeed, as Patty stated, 
fallen amongst people whose friendship (save 
the mark !) and sympathy (that a good word 
should ever come to be so misapplied !) were 
effecting infinite harm. 

These were persons who, never having 



Frankh Resolve. 87 

done a day's real work in their lives, had 
no faith in the real work of others ; who, 
just as every man thinks he can drive a gig 
through London, believed there was nothing 
difficult in conducting a business ; who had 
a general contempt for men, their useless- 
ness, their selfishness, their exacting ideas. 
Even the males amongst that clique had a 
way of saying, " If you want a thing done 
well, get a woman to do it," whilst all the 
time the women did nothing except complain 
about the shortcomings of the rival sex. 

Those were the days before '' Women's 
Eights " was discussed either privately or 
publicly. ^^ Women's Wrongs," a much 
more prolific and dangerous subject, was 
then the popular question in certain circles. 
Ladies who were married, and ladies who 
were single, alike agreed in condemning the 
arrangements of Providence as regarded 
mankind. 

People may object to the institution of 
women's rights, and the open discussion of 



Frank Si7iclair's WifeP 



their fitness for this or that trade and pro- 
fession, but there can be no question that 
an open sore is better than one falsely 
healed ; and that if women think themselves 
unfairly treated, it is better they should say 
so in the market-place than beside the do- 
mestic hearth ; that the question should be 
decided by the experience of the world, 
rather than sulked over between husband 
and wife, father and daughter. 

If it give the smallest pleasure to a gentle- 
woman to go out and earn her own bread 
instead of letting some one more competent 
earn it for her, there cannot, I apprehend, 
be any reason why she should be prevented 
from doing so. England is a free country, 
which means that we reside in a land where 
one human being has full liberty to annoy 
another to his heart's content, and why 
should woman be an exception to this rule ? 
The times in which a father could exercise 
a certain control over his son's career have 
had their day, and are gone ; and if modern 



Frankh Resolve, 89 

daughters develope a taste for '' cutting their 
own grass," to use an inelegant but expres- 
sive phrase, paterfamilias may be quite 
certain it is much more to his interest 
they should do so, than sit at home in that 
fearful state of idleness which obtains in 
modern English homes — thinking of the 
author of their being as a surly creature, 
who delights not in the latest costume dress, 
in the sweetest hat that ever came out of a 
milliner's shop, or in the heaviest plaits of 
hair that ever were bought ^^ cheaper than 
cheap," through the kind offices of a friend 
in Germany. 

For my own part, if women choose to go 
out and work with and like men, it seems 
to me that it is simple folly to raise any 
objection. 

Years ago, a widower, burying his second 
wife, loudly expressed his intention of fling- 
ing himself into the grave after her coffin, 
and was, indeed, only restrained from doing 
so by the strong arms of his friends, who 



90 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

with difficulty prevented the execution of 
his project. 

The scene was a suburban bui'ial-ground, 
where people were buried daily by the score ; 
and as familiarity breeds contempt, or at 
least indifference, the officiating clergyman 
proceeded with the service, unmoved alike 
by the man's grief and the bystanders' ex- 
postulations. 

Suddenly, however, his noisy lamentations 
becoming quite unendurable, the curate very 
mildly remarked, " If the gentleman wishes 
to get into the grave, there is nothing to 
prevent his doing so," which unexpected 
permission at once ended the scene. 

The gentleman did not jump in after his 
wife, any more than a certain other gentle- 
man died on the floor of the House of Com- 
mons ; and it is the firm belief of the present 
writer that if women's rights had never met 
with the smallest opposition — had a wise 
public said, " You shall take men's work if 
you desire it ; you shall hedge and ditch ; 



Fratikh Resolve. gi 

you shall walk four miles to your work in 
the winter mornings; you shall go down 
into the sewers ; you shall drive dust carts ; 
you shall have businesses, and leave your 
homes every morning at eight o'clock, so as 
to reach office by nine ; you shall have full 
liberty to go out, no matter how ill you feel ; 
you shall forget your sex, and let men for- 
get it too, and treat you as they would men, 
peremptorily and roughly; you shall have 
households to keep, and incompetent hus- 
bands if you like, boring you when you 
come home for money ; you shall go out in 
all weathers, and face all difficulties, and 
take all responsibilities, since such is your 
pleasure " — we should never have had 
another word of women doing men's work,, 
or wanting to do it either. 

It was the gross ignorance of women 
concerning the battle of life that made them 
ever wish to go out into it ; and I hope and 
trust the day may come, though writer or 
reader may not live to see it, when, for the 



92 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

«ake of England's honour and England's 
glory, her daughters, wearied of the world's 
clamour and the world's unkindness, may 
thankfully creep back home, and tell to their 
grandchildren and their great-grandchildren 
how much better and happier a thing it is to 
rule a household aright, and to make bright 
a fireside for a man's return, than to go 
forth through the mud and the rain, the melt- 
ing heat and the suffocating dust, without a 
dear face and kindly smile looking forth from 
the open door to welcome one's return. 

It is dangerous to preach an old religion 
when a new is abroad ; and, therefore, to 
moderate the fury of the storm with which 
these remarks are certain to be assailed, I 
will just add in all honesty, that I believe 
the last state of English society to be far 
more healthy than that which preceded it. 
The sore long concealed has been exhibited 
at last. Instead of women saying over their 
tea, ^^ Men do no real work," they are crying 
aloud in the streets, " Give us work ! " and 



Frank's Resolve, 93 

the only matter for real regret in the whole 
business is that there cannot be found work 
enough to give them, since it would prove 
better for women to learn sympathy with 
men from actual experience than for them 
to refrain from sympathy altogether. 

But, as has been said, on that especial 
summer evening when Frank Sinclair left 
the City in order to walk home, women's 
rights had not been thought of — not in 
England, at least, save vaguely. 

The preliminary notes of war had sounded, 
it is true, and were carried to human 
ears like voices from a far distance ; but 
what had actually come to pass was this — 
that wives were looking distastefully on 
former occupations, without having taken 
courage to lay hold on new ; that daughters 
were taking part with their mothers against 
the stinginess which refused them unlimited 
credit, and insisted that a ten-pound note 
should last them, oh ! for ever so long ; 
that the willing service, the loving thought- 



94 Frank Sinclair'' s Wife, 

fulness of a previous generation had become 
a mere memory of the past, and that 
women had left their own especial sphere 
without actually aspiring to shine in that of 
man. 

It was an uncomfortable transition state, 
that, in which it fared very hardly with 
many a man who had really very few sins 
of his own to answer for, and who was 
merely made the unhappy scapegoat, des- 
tined to bear the real or fancied transgres- 
sions of previous generations of husbands, 
forth into the wilderness. 

The result to each male who chanced to 
be selected for this purpose was uncomfort- 
able, and for a long time previously Frank 
had found his domestic situation unpleasant ; 
and as he walked along, thankful at heart 
for the pecuniary ease time had brought, 
his thoughts recurred over and over again 
to home troubles, and he began marvelling 
if the fault lay at all with him, and if so, 
Jiow he could remedy it. 



Frank's Resolve. 95 

Once more lie recalled the past, carefully 
TN^eigliing each step, and asking himself how 
matters would have been had he acted in this 
way, or in that. Had he been too reserved ? 
had he been moody, irritable, apparently un- 
generous? Might his wife not have mis- 
taken his ill-concealed anxiety, for temper, 
his desire for economy, for meanness, his 
abstraction, for want of love ? Putting 
aside the memory of that bright sunshiny 
time at Mulford, before they twain became 
one, he could not, even for the children's 
sake, endure that the mother of his girls 
and his boys should drift any further away 
from his affection. 

He would make an effort to come to a 
thorough understanding with her. Sitting 
in the soft evening light, he would make 
the experiment of taking her fully into his 
confidence, and trying to make her under- 
stand the precise nature and extent of the 
difficulties which he had encountered and 
overcome. 



96 



CHAPTER VIII. 

"HOME, SWEET HOME." 

In one of Miss Ingelow's most charming 
poems, there is an exquisite description of 
two who started on their way with the 
merest trifle of a dancing rivulet dividing 
them, and the author — I repeat the story, 
after years, from memory — goes on to tell 
how the stream grew and widened ; how they 
first were compelled to loosen hands, once 
clasped together ; how by degrees the voice 
of one failed to reach the ear of the other ; 
how the figures of each grew dim by reason 
of the waste of waters intervening; and 
how, finally, they who had commenced 



''''Home Sweet Home,^"^ 97 

to walk tbTough life together were divided 
for ever, unless, indeed, they might per- 
chance meet in eternity on the shores of the 
great sea. 

It was just with the same sort of horror 
with which one might contemplate the 
possibility of such an end coming to 
passionate love, to tender friendship, that 
Frank Sinclair looked forward to the chance 
of himself and his wife becoming yet further 
estranged. 

He could not tell when or where it had 
begun; he had no idea when or how it 
might end. He overlooked the fact that 
when people whose interests should be 
identical separate thus, there must have 
been some tiny stream, so slight as to be 
scarcely noticeable, dividing them at first; 
for Frank Sinclair was not yet prepared to 
say even to himself, ^^It has been an error 
all through. The sunshine, and the peace, 
and the love, and the comfort of that 
country rectory threw a glamour over me, 

VOL. I. H 



98 JFrank Sinclair's Wife. 

from which I have been emerging ever 
since." 

He felt this, but he would not have liked 
to shape the thought into words, for he was 
loyal and loving, this man who could not 
rule his wife, and he would have been 
content — so the lofty ideal fades, and the 
dream- castle vanishes — if she would only 
have looked after their house, and seen to 
their children, and given him a kindly word 
of welcome when he came home, and seen 
that a servant was up in the mornings to 
get his breakfast ready, and that some sort 
of repast was prepared for his return at 
night. 

No such utterly prosaic ending of all 
romance had he pictured to himself when he 
read poetry to --Arabella in the Eectory 
garden. Now he had neither prose nor 
verse, and there was the hardship. 

It is a sad case when a man cannot at 
home hope for a repast of any kind, either 
mental or physical; and with the memory 



^' Home^ Sweet Ho?ney 99 

of breakfasts at tlie various City hotels, of 
dinners at Becky's, and Tom's, and Sam's, 
and Betty's, and of cold weak tea at home, 
Mr. Sinclair could not delude himself into 
the idea that matrimony, as he had found 
it, was very different in point of comfort, 
though it proved decidedly more expensive, 
than a first floor furnished at so much a 
week for a single gentleman, with attend- 
ance included. 

Well, well ! now that he had time — alas ! 
how many of us have used that sentence ! 
sometimes, however, commencing it with 
'^when" instead — now that he had time, he 
would try to put it right ; he would talk to 
Bella and see if, for his sake — the sake of 
the former lover who he knew had once 
seemed to her Kke the Fairy Prince — she 
would not try to make a better thing of life 
for both of th,em. 

It is but a poor little story, this — about 
common worldly doings — about people the 
like of whom we meet every day, who kept 

H 2 



lOO Frank Sinclair's Wife, 



all the commandments, or at least, those of 
them which the heroes and heroines of 
ordinary novels most usually transgress; 
and yet, if I could but convey to my reader 
even the faintest idea of how utterly piteous 
and pitiable a thing it seems to me, for a 
man to trudge homeward over the stony- 
hearted pavements, carrying such thoughts 
as these in his heart, I might hope to 
interest him more in my tale than is the 
least likely to prove the case. 

And here it may be at once confessed that 
when, long ago, this story of events which fell 
under my own observation was first planned, 
my intention was rather to sketch the 
purely grotesque side of the subject, than 
to depict troubles that had to be encoun- 
tered, and very deep sorrows which had to 
be endured, by reason of Erank Sinclair's 
folly, and the greater folly, shall we call it, 
of his wife ? But all absurdity has its grave 
side, all humour its tears ; and there may be 
as much cause for sadness in the fact of a 



^'' Ho7ne^ Sweet HovieP loi 



husband being utterly neglected, as there 
was — spite of the dictum of the older 
playwrights — in the fact of a wife's un- 
faithfulness. 

Slowly the man paced along, planning. 
In one way he was happy himself, and he 
wanted to see whether he could not induce 
Bella to be happier too. He knew enough 
of life to be well aware that husband and 
wife ought to be true staunch friends to 
each other — he to her, she to him. He 
could not believe in any woman feeling 
satisfied with the life Bella was leading; 
and he thought if he talked to her tenderly 
and lovingly, they might '^come together," 
so he put it, ^^ again." As though they had 
ever really come together yet ! 

If a man makes up his mind to be 
conciliatory, it is somewhat irritating to be 
thrown back upon his good intentions. 
Frank found it to be so, at all events, when 
on entering the drawing-room he found 
several persons there before him, and those 



I02 Frank Si7iclair's Wife, 

the very persons lie most cordially hated to 
see in the house. 

There was a little simpering major, who 
had a trick of shaking him by the hand for 
about five minutes at a time, murmuring 
during the performance unmeaning plati- 
tudes about his ^^ dear friend," his ^^good 
friend." There was a young lady who 
painted pictures, and parted her hair con- 
siderably on one side, and clothed herself in 
a loose sort of blouse. There was a lacka- 
daisical woman, with long ringlets, who had 
worried her husband into a lunatic asylum, 
and who was now, having lost her occupa- 
tion, killing time as best she could. There 
was a young gentleman supposed to have 
intentions towards the young lady who 
painted pictures — which however, he kept 
carefully locked up in the recesses of his own 
bosom — who was wont to read idiotic verses, 
chiefly in praise of woman's superiority, to 
a credulous and admiring audience. There 
was a middle-aged widow who had taken up 



^^ Hovie^ Sweet HomeP 103 

Mendelssohn vehemently, and scoffed at 
Handel, and who had achieved quite a 
reputation in certain circles for her ren- 
dering of the ' Lieder ohne Worte.' And 
last, but by no means least, there was Mr. 
Sinclair's especial abhorrence, a Miss 
Myrton, who was to him as thistles and sour 
grapes — as the bitterness of wormwood. 

Frank Sinclair had conceived an aversion 
for Miss Myrton, in comparison to which 
the Franco- German feud that Englishmen 
may expect to see raging for the next few 
centuries will be mildness itself. He de- 
tested the woman, who in personal appear- 
ance was by no means the sort of woman 
who is ordinarily detested. 

She was not lean; she did not arrange 
her hair sausage fashion on each side of a 
high forehead; she had not high cheek- 
bones and a hollow chest ; nay, rather, for 
her years she was comely and well developed. 
She had fair hair just streaked with grey, 
and blue eyes, and a still good complexion ; 



I04 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

site dressed well, and not too youthfully ; 
she was courteous enough in her manner, 
and yet Frank hated the woman, for to her 
influence he ascribed most of the discomfort 
of his home. 

'^0 tares, though, will grow even if the 
devil sow them, unless the soil make their 
seed welcome ; but Bella, discontented and 
selfish, had welcomed the tares, and behold 
they bore abundantly. 

After the first interchange of civilities 
between her husband and her guests, Mrs. 
Sinclair (more, perhaps, by way of hazarding 
a question than because she felt interested 
in the matter) inquired — 

" Have you dined ? " 

^'^N'o," Frank answered, turning from the 
window out of which he was looking at 
vacancy. 

"Dear me, how unfortunate !" his wife 
exclaimed. '' I waited for you until half- 
past five, and then thought it was useless 
doing so any longer.'' 



^' Home J Sweet Homer 105 

^^ Of course, for I am generally home at 
half-past five," Frank answered, with a ring 
of sarcasm in his voice, only intelligible to 
those who knew he rarely returned from 
the city so early. 

^^But never mLad," he went on, glancing 
at the equipage which then prefigured the 
kettledrum of more modern times ; ^^ I will 
have a cup of tea." 

^^ Catherine shall make more directly," 
Mrs. Sinclair declared, and Major Clements 
was moving to the bell-pull, when Mr. 
Sinclair stopped him. 

''' Thank you, no," he said ; ^^ I will go 
down into the dining-room, and have some 
tea and cold meat there." 

Whereupon Mrs. Sinclair and Miss Myrton 
exchanged glances, as who should say — 

^' A man all over ! Scarcely in the house 
before he is thinking what he should ike 
to eat and drink." 

Certainly if there were anything Frank 
thought he should like, he did not usually 



io6 Frank Sinclair s Wife. 

get it; but that ^was a yiew of tlie ques- 
tion which neyer came within the range of 
Miss Myrton's theoretic observation. Not 
utterly indifferent was that lady to gastro- 
nomic considerations, but then she made 
them subsidiary to the charms of friendship, 
or at least professed to do so. 

Now, if Frank had taken that role ! 
but, unhappily for his own comfort's sake, 
Frank did nothing of the kind. He only 
walked down-stairs, and meeting the house- 
maid, desired her to bring up tea, and some 
cold beef if there were any. Eeferring to 
that latter item, the housemaid presently 
returned to say there was none. 

^' It is of no consequence," Mr. Sinclair 
replied — and for a fasting man the answer 
could not be considered unreasonable — 
*^ bring me some tea and bread and butter," 
and he took up a book and began to read. 

At the end of half an hour he rang the 
bell. 

'^ Is that tea soon coming ? " 



''^ Home^ Sweet Ho77iey 107 

^^ Oh ! if you please, sir, the fii-e was out, 
and cook had no wood, and she has sent 
Jemima out for some." 

Then Mr. Sinclair arose and delivered 
himself of a Commination Seryice over the 
head of that " treasure of a housemaid," Ca- 
tharine Holmes, who dressed Mrs. Sinclair's 
hair so beautifully. He went on ^^ dread- 
ful," so Catharine subsequently stated in the 
kitchen ; he declared he would get servants 
who understood their duties, and should 
perform them ; and then, to quote Catharine 
Holmes' succinct narrative of the interview, 
'^ he clapped on his hat and went out of the 
front door like a whirlwind, banging it after 
him." 

Mrs. Sinclair and Miss Myrton heard the 
bang in the drawing-room, and correctly 
interpreted its cause. 



io8 



CHAPTEE IX. 

UPON OPPOSITE SIDES. 

As a rule, when a man has a disagreement 
or cause of disagreement with his wife, it 
is usually — in books at least — considered 
the inevitable consequence that he shall 
rush off to the gaming-table, the tavern, the 
boudoir of some more gracious fair, or to 
that other resort of suffering humanity, his 
club. As one scale flies up, the other 
appears — in fiction at all events — to go 
down. It is now wife and struggling virtue, 
it is next day no wife to speak of, and utter 
recklessness. Eemove the loadstone from 
a husband's existence and he drifts — accord- 



• upon Opposite Sides. 109 

ing to novelists — as hopelessly as the needle 
hunting after a lost north pole. The first 
qnarrel is the first step in a downward 
descent, man being, according to this new 
doctrine, the weaker vessel and prone to 
sink. Following which train of argument, 
had Frank Sinclair adopted the conventional 
course, he would, on that night when he 
banged the hall-door of his dwelling-house 
after him, have returned home excited with 
wine, and a hundred pounds out of pocket, 
or perhaps, indeed, never have returned 
home at all. 

But this unheroic hero of mine was 
really, spite of his good looks and his ener- 
getic temperament, only a very common- 
place sort of individual, who would as soon 
have thought of plunging wildly into dissi- 
pation because he and his wife were not of 
one mind, as he would of cutting his throat 
because he never could get hot water for 
shaving in the morning; and, accordingly, 
when after a long, solitary walk he re- 



no Frank Siyulairs Wife. 

appeared in Briant View Terrace, he was, 
to all outward appearance, precisely the 
same individual in every respect who had 
come home from the City a few hours 
before. 

To outward appearance only, however, 
for during his ramble he had certainly 
undergone a change. He left the house 
angry, and he returned to it calm, it is 
true ; but he also returned sad and almost 
hopeless. What was to become of his home 
and his children, if this sort of thing went 
on ? if day by day Bella became less a wife, 
less a helpmate, less a mother, less a com- 
panion, even than at present. 

The establishment was in a state of 
anarchy, the children were neglected, he 
was miserable. Had the destruction of his 
day-dream only involved his own comfort, 
his own happiness, Frank would not so 
much have cared ; he would have let things 
drift ; but he who has given hostages to 
Fortune may not dare to flee from any 



upon Opposite Sides. 



Ill 



battle, no matter how distasteful the war 
may prove. 

There is nothing so difficult, I imagine, 
as for a man to reform a bad manager; 
indeed, it is so difficult that, taking men 
round, as a rule, they never attempt the 
task. They sulk, they are angry, they de- 
clare things must be altered, they grumble 
about the household expenditure, they lay 
the blame on the servants, and then they 
decide that endurance is the better part of 
valour, and that what cannot be mended it 
were wisest to ignore. But Frank could 
not as yet contemplate with equanimity the 
possibility of such a life stretching away 
before him, and he therefore spoke to his 
wife that night on the subject of her short- 
comings, as he had never spoken before. 

He pointed out to her, quietly and tempe- 
rately as he imagined, that even as a bread- 
winner he was entitled to more consideration 
than he received. That although it was quite 
certain a man could put up with a great deal 



112 Frank Sinclair^ Wife, 

of annoyance, still it was equally certain 
whilst he remained in the flesh he could not 
live without food ; that it was unpleasant, to 
say the least of it, not even to be able to rely 
upon having a cup of tea in his own house ; 
and he finished by saying that if Bella could 
not get servants who understood their 
business and would do it, he must himself 
try whether he might not prove more 
fortunate. 

Whereupon Mrs. Sinclair declared that of 
course she had long been aware nothing she 
could do was right. 

* '*I did not say nothing you could do 
would be right; I merely expressed my 
opinion that nothing in the house has been 
right for a long time," he replied. 

^^ Then you had better manage the house 
yourself,'' she said. ^^ You would soon tire of 
it, I can tell you. Men never can enter into 
the troubles and anxieties of a woman's life. 
You think it something wonderful to be able 
to earn a little money after your way has been 



upon Opposite Sides. 113 

made smooth for you ; but if you had to look 
after your children, and nurse them through 
all their illnesses, and were pestered with ser- 
vants, and received nothing from your hus- 
band in return but black looks and cross 
words, you would be very soon glad to be 
a man again." 

^^ I do not think, Bella, you can complain 
of black looks and cross words from me," 
Frank said gently. 

*^Yes, you are always grumbling if 
everything is not in apple-pie order; but 
how can things be always in order where 
there are children, I should like to know ? 
And then, if I want a little money you are 
so disagreeable, that I am sure I have often 
prayed to be shown some way in which I 
could earn it for myself. You have always 
quantities of gold and silver in your pockets, 
and yet when I require a sovereign, it is 
given to me as though it were a thousand- 
pound note. You are not so stingy where 
your own fancies are concerned." 

VOL. I. I 



114 Frank Sinclair'' s Wife. 

He did not answer her for a moment ; he 
rose and walked up and down the room, 
then he stopped suddenly and said — 

^^ Bella, what is it that has come between 
US? why is it that we cannot be of one 
mind ? that you will not understand I want 
nothing, ask nothing, except what would, I 
honestly believe, be for the good and happi- 
ness of ourselves and our children ? Where 
have I failed in my duty ? Is it a sin for a 
man to ask that the money he earns hardly 
shall be spent prudently — to complain, when 
after the day's labour he returns to find his 
home wretched, his servants idle, his wife 
engaged with visitors ? " 

*^Am I to have no visitors, then?" she 
asked sharply. '^ Am I to live mewed up 
here without a soul to speak to, whilst you 
are amusing yourself in the City ? If I had 
only known what you expected from a wife, 
I would never have married you ; and as it is, 
it seems to me that the best thing for both of 
us would be never to see each other again ; 



upon Opposite Sides, 1 1 5 

we should then be able to live without 
quarrelling, at all events." And having 
pictured this cheerful connubial future, she 
burst into tears. 

*^ Shall I ever speak again, or shall I 
never?" thought the man. And then he 
gravely kissed his wife and bade her not 
talk nonsense ; and, lighting a candle, went 
sorrowfully up to bed. 

Next morning, the servants having over- 
slept themselves, he left without his break- 
fast; and as fasting does not generally 
induce cheerful views of life, Frank Sin- 
clair decided that he was not to have 
much comfort in his domestic relations, 
and that the sooner he made up his mind 
to that fact, the better for all parties con- 
cerned. 

But during the day he came to a different 
conclusion. Like most men, he inclined to 
lay the blame of his home unhappiness on 
others rather than on his wife. She was 
badly advised. She had fallen amongst a 

I 2 



ii6 Frank Sinclair s Wife, 

set of people who could not understand the 
difficulties of her position, and who would 
not let Bella understand them either. He 
felt quite satisfied^ if he could only once 
make her comprehend that he had not 
a thought in life beyond her and the chil- 
dren, things might be different. He had 
made a mistake in taking a house in Briant 
View Terrace ; one in a less pretentious 
locality, nearer to his business, and further 
away from her undesirable acquaintances, 
might change everything. 

He would move ; he would speak to Bella 
about it that very night. 

But when he returned he found his wife 
out of temper. She had waited dinner for 
him, and cook, who liked to have ^'her 
evenings clear," was sulky, and everything 
was spoiled. 

^*It is always the way," said Mrs 
Sinclair ; ^' I have tried waiting for you over 
and over and over again, and then you come 
in with the same story about being detained, 



upon Opposite Sides. 117 

or haying an appointment, or something of 
the sort." > 

^^ Do yon think I tell you what is not the 
truth ? " he asked. He then, without wait- 
ing for a reply, added, ''However, it does not 
matter ; you need never wait for me again." 

''But if I do not wait you are out of 
temper." 

"l^ot if I can get anything to eat; and 
besides, it is better for me to be out of tem- 
per than you." 

" And why, pray ?" 

"Because I can keep silence and you 
can not." 

" Oh, indeed ! this is the first time I was 
aware of your possessing so valuable an 
accomplishment." 

" Do not let us quarrel, Bella," he en- 
treated. If there were one thing he dread- 
ed more than another it was that, perhaps, 
because he felt if once he quarrelled with 
her the breach on his part might be 
difficult to repair. 



ii8 Frank Sinclair'' s Wife. 

** I have no desire to quarrel," she answer- 
ed. " No one can say I ever was the first 
to commence even an argument." 

Hearing which astounding assertion, Frank 
looked in his wife's face and remained mute, 
marvelling to himself. 

" Can I be as much self-deceived as she ? 
Is the whole or any portion of this miserable 
wrangling my fault ? " And till he had 
thought the matter over a little longer, 
he decided not to moot the idea of removing 
from Briant Yiew Terrace. 

That evening, however, he mentioned the 
desirability of such a plan. He told his wife 
he considered the house and the neighbour- 
hood too expensive for their means, and he 
hinted that, for the sake of the children, it 
would be well to commence laying some- 
thing aside for that rainy day which, even 
in a bright noontide in June, it is always 
prudent to remember must come before 
Christmas. 

Further he explained he found the long 



upon Opposite Sides, 1 1 9 

journey night and morning, in all sorts of 
weather, telling upon his health. 

^^ There are plenty of good houses much 
nearer the City," he went on ^^ to be had at 
comparatively low rentals, and — " 

*^You want to take me into some low 
neighbourhood out of reach of all my 
friends," finished Mrs. Sinclair ; ^^ but I tell 
you, once for all, I will not move. It is quite 
bad enough to be left alone the whole day 
where we are ; but it would be worse if I 
had not a soul to come in and speak to me. 
If you were so fond of your business as to 
wish always to be near it, you should not 
have married at all." 

"You are quite right, Bella," he answer- 
ed, '^ I ought not to have married ; but as 
we can neither of us rectify that mistake 
now, I am determined to do what I think 
best for you and the children. It is per- 
fectly ridiculous labouring on year after 
year, and not being even twenty pounds 
the richer. Supposing sickness were to 



I20 Frank Sinclair'' s Wife. 

come, that T were to be laid aside for 
awhile — " 

" What is the use of supposing what may 
never come?" she interrupted. "At all 
events, moving into a different neighbour- 
hood could not secure good health for ever, 
and it would make me wretched to leave the 
few friends who have been so kind to me in 
my loneliness." 

" I am afraid,'' said Frank, "' those friends 
have done mucli to alienate us." 

" No," she replied ; " if we are alienated, 
it is your own fault ; for many a day you 
have brought nothing but black looks and 
utter silence into your own house. The City 
people you are so fond of have all the 
pleasant talk, I suppose; at all events, I 
have not the benefit of it." 

"If I have been dull at home I am 
sorry," he began. "I did not wish to 
cause you anxiety by talking to you of my 
troubles ; but the last few years have proved 
hard, struggling ones for me, and it is 



Up07i Opposite Sides. 1 2 i 

because I dread a recurrence of such a fight 
that I want to retrench and curtail our 
expenditure, so as to have some njoney 
before us in case of losses, or bad trade — " 

'''" Oh, I am sick of trade ! " Mrs. Sin- 
clair exclaimed impatiently. 

^^ Well, but, my dear, it at all events pays 
rent and taxes, butcher, baker, and milliner," 
he ventured to suggest. * 

^^ What is it that pays butcher, baker, and 
milliner, Mr Sinclair?" at this juncture 
inquired a visitor who, having entered the 
drawing-room unannounced, had heard the 
conclusion of Frank's sentence. ^^ I am sure 
I wish I could do something to make money, 
if it were only that I might give it away in 
charity. How do you do, dear?" — this to 
Bella ; -and then the ladies kissed each other 
tenderly. '^Mayl really remain?" Miss 
Myrton continued. ^^ Are you certain I am 
not de trop ? I am always so dreadfully 
afraid of interrupting a conjugal tete-a-tete ^ 
The husband bit his lip as he threw him- 



122 Frank Sinclair'* s Wife. 

self back in his chair, annoyance mastering 
politeness ; but Mrs Sinclaii* evidently wel- 
comed the interruption, even as an out- 
matched general would gladly greet the com- 
ing of a strong ally. 



123 



CHAPTER X. 

RESIGNING THE HELM. 

" When you have the misfortune to be a 
wife," said Frank drily, to Miss Myrton, 
" you will find that the conjugal Ute-d4Ue 
generally has reference to ways and means." 

" YeSj on the man's side," observed his wife. 

" And on the woman's too, I think," he 
replied. " At all events, I would venture a 
considerable bet that out of every hundred 
married men who leave home in the morning 
for business, ninety -nine have been asked for 
money by their wives." 

^^ But why cannot they give it without 
being asked ? " inquired Miss Myrton. 



124 Frank Siriclairh Wife. 

" Because they are men ;" and Mrs. Sin- 
clair threw a tone into her explanation 
which implied that in one word she had 
summed up the whole case against the sex. 

'^ That certainly is a misfortune/' her 
husband replied ; ^^ but still, the business 
of life could scarcely, I imagine, go on 
without men to conduct it." 

" I can not allow that to pass without con- 
tradiction," said Miss Myrton. '^ I have 
always held the opinion that there is nothing 
a man does which a woman could not do 
better — that is, supposing she has the same 
social and educational advantages.'' 

" I am not certain that I quite grasp 
what you mean by social and educational ad- 
vantages," he answered; "and with regard 
to the other question, since it has never been 
practically tried, it must be considered, as 
you suggest, a matter of opinion. Even 
you, I presume, would not wish it to become 
other than a matter of opinion. It is all 
very well to talk about doing men's work, 



Resigning the Hebji, 123 

but actually performing it would prove 
quite a different matter." 

^' If I could not do men's work better 
than they, I should feel ashamed of myself," 
remarked Mrs. Sinclair. ^^They make such 
a fuss over every little trouble — over every 
slight annoyance. If they had the constant 
anxieties women have, they would learn to 
be more patient and more amiable." 

'-'- Well, I do not know," said her husband. 
'' I must say I have never found anxiety im- 
prove my temper, nor make me more patient." 

*' That is because you are a man," ex- 
plained Miss Myrton, repeating Mrs. Sin- 
clair's former statement; ''it is only wo- 
man's nature which is perfected through 
suffering." 

For a moment Frank looked at the speaker 
to see if she were jesting. It had certainly 
never occurred to him before that she 
possessed the slightest sense of humour, but 
it seemed incredible that any rational being 
could make such a speech in good faith. 



126 Frank Sinclair'^ s Wife. 

One glance at Miss Myrton's face assured 
him, however, that she was thoroughly ia 
earnest — that her estimate of female cha- 
racter was as high as her opinion of male 
perfectibility was low, and he therefore 
asked quietly — 

'^ Pray, have you known many women 
who, through suJffering, have grown more 
patient and amiable ? " 

" Yes, numbers," was the reply. '^ Oh, 
I could tell you such tales of passionate 
natures becoming subdued — of devotedness 
taking the place of selfishness — of lives 
passed only in ministeriag to others, as 
would, I am certain, convert you to my 
opinion." 

" And have you never come in contact 
with unselfishness and amiability in men ? " 
he inquired. 

^* IS'ever in the domestic circle," said the 
lady sadly. 

^' I must compliment you on your frank- 
ness," he replied, amused almost in spite of 
himself. 



Resigning the Helm, 127 

^^ Of course the present company is al- 
ways excepted," Miss Myrton suggested. 

*' Unless it chance to be masculine," 
Frank answered. At which point Mrs. 
Sinclair declared it was of no use losing his 
temper ; that any one knew all men were 
selfish ; they could not be men unless they 
were — they could not help it any more than 
they could help having beards ; and the 
way women gave in to them, and flattered 
and petted their very weaknesses, increased 
the evil. 

^' "Why, there is my own father " she 

was proceeding, whenTrank interrupted her 
with — 

^' Than whom a more thorough gentle- 
man never existed." 

" Yes, but the manner in which mamma 
insists on every thing and person giving way 
to him is perfectly ridiculous," persisted 
Mrs. Sinclair. 

^^ I cannot think so," her husband an- 
swered. " I never saw anything more 



128 Frank Sinclair'' s Wife. 

beautiful thau your mother's love for and 
devotion towards liim. And, Bella, is it not 
reciprocal ? Is not your father's life spent 
in labouring for his wife, his family, and 
his parishioners ? Does he ever spare him- 
self ? does he ever rest when he ought to be 
at work ? Miss Myrton," Frank added, turn- 
ing towards that lady, '^ when I am weary 
of London and London ways, when my very 
heart seems to grow sick of the selfishness 
and the frivolity of town life, I think of 
that quiet country/ parsonage, and the peace 
and affection which dwell there, and feel for 
the time happy." 

^^ And yet gentlemen are not, as a rule, 
satisfied to lead quiet lives," said Miss 
Myrton. 

" I fancy you are mistaken on that point," 
was the reply. ^' Boys may weary of mono- 
tony, but when men have experienced the 
cares of existence they are content, more 
than content, to step aside into retirement. 
Of course there are exceptions to all rules, 
and speculative men, who lead feverish 



Resig7ii7ig the Helm, 129 

lives, Kke to continue doing so to the 
end. Taking the world round, however, 
I beKeve there is a charm to the bulk 
of men in even the idea of sitting 
down at peace under the shadow of their 
own viae and their own fig-tree, which 
women entii-ely fail to understand." 

" "We have no chance of getting tired of 
action, certainly," remarked Miss Myrton. 

" That is precisely the evil of a woman's 
position," chimed in Mrs. Sinclair. 

^'Well, I do not know why you should 
consider it an evil," Frank replied. '"For 
my part, I think a little inaction would suit 
me remarkably well. It is possible for a 
soldier to have too much of fighting, and 
though no man ought to grumble at his 
business or profession, still it seems inex- 
plicable to me, who have not found my fight 
easy, how it is that those who can sit at 
home at ease should find fault with any 
dispensation of Providence which enables 

them to do so." And having plainly stated 
VOL. I. e: 



130 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

this opinion, and given his wife what she 
figuratively called a slap in the face with it, 
Mr. Sinclair bade Miss Myrton '"'- Good-bye," 
and went out for his customary evening 
stroll, in which pleasant thoughts did not 
always bear him company. 

Once again he had failed in carrying his 
point. What the end of it all was to be he 
could not even imagine. 

Had he not shrunk from laying bare his 
domestic concerns to the gaze of other 
people, he would have spoken on the sub- 
ject to his father-in-law, and requested his 
advice ; but Frank was too loyal and too 
chivalrous to make complaints about the 
woman he had married; and besides, he 
argued, if he could not manage his own wife, 
who should be able to manage her for him ? 

Unrestrained, however, by any such deli- 
cate scruples, Mrs. Sinclair, the moment the 
door closed behind her husband, commenced 
pouring her grievances into her friend's sym- 
pathetic ear ; and the ladies talked the matter 



Resigning the Helm, 131 



over, and then turned it and talked it again, 
till it was proved more conclusively than ever 
that poor Bella was most miserably united 
to an inconsiderate and possibly profligate 
male, '' who, very probably, my dear," 
finished Miss Myrton, ^^ spends nearly all 
the money he makes in gambling, or worse 
— for men are all alike." 

"And then their wives and families suffer," 
argued Bella ; and yet even as she spoke her 
conscience, though not over-sensitive, ex- 
perienced a twinge. Memory and sense 
could not always be lulled into forgetfulness 
of patient kindness — of tender forbearance 
— of slights borne patiently — of a life 
which might have been happier and more 
profitable, but for her. 

" It is a great pity," went on Miss Myrton, 
" you have no male relation in London, who 
could look a little after the interests of you 
and your children. A wife is so completely 
in her husband's power that he may waste 
-all his money, and leave her and his family 



132 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

paupers ; " and so the wretched woman ran 
on, inculcating the modern doctrine — which 
had not in those days become an acknow- 
ledged religion — that the interests of man 
and wife can ever be, except in most ex- 
ceptional cases, dissimilar ; that it is needful 
for the law, or for friends, or for male or 
female relatives, to intervene between the 
woman and the guardian she voluntarily 
selected for herself. 

And Bella Sinclair listened and believed, 
and pictured to herself an hour when possibly 
she and her children might have to return 
penniless to the paternal roof, because of" 
Frank's incompetence to manage his busi- 
ness, or recklessness in spending the profits 
he derived from it. 

But this particular vision Mrs. Sinclair 
refrained from confiding to her husband 
immediately. Perhaps she had a doubt as 
to how it might be received by him, and it is 
possible she would never have revealed the 
spirit of prophecy with which she had been. 



Resigning the Helm. 133 



suddenly gifted, had Frank agreed to her 
. going out of town in August for the second 
time in one season, and provided money for 
capacious lodgings at an expensive sea-side 
resort. 

^' No," he said; "if you want country 
air you can go to Mulford ; you know your 
mother has written over and over again, 
asking you and the children to spend a 
month at the Eectory ; and I think you 
ought to accept the invitation, as it is two 
years since you have been there. However, 
if you do not wish to see your parents, 
please yourself; only I am determined not 
to spend another hundred pounds merely for 
the food of sea-side leeches." 

Then the storm broke, and that un- 
happily in Miss Myrton's presence. '' He 
could spend fast enough if he wanted it for 
his own extravagance. Yes — she was not 
the only person who suspected how the 
profits of the business went — other people 
could not avoid seeing how he grudged 



134 Fra7ik Sinclair's Wife, 

every sixpence which Tras needful for wife 
or child. It was all nonsense talking about 
short of money. Every one knew that per- 
sons in business could get as much as they 
desired." 

According to Mrs. Sinclair, that was 
the counterbalance against the vulgarity 
of trade, and the reason why girls of good, 
family were induced to accept City suitors. 

Honestly she believed the City to be a 
sort of bank, with stores of gold, into which 
a man had but to dip his hand and take out 
what he wanted. 

" It must be one thing or another," 
finished Mrs. Sinclair. '^You are either 
incompetent to manage your business, or 
else the money goes into other channels. 
You will never make me believe that there 
is any necessity for this , constant pinching, 
and grudging, and cheese-paring." 

" If that be your opinion, then," said her 
husband, ^'for the future you and your 
friends had better take the conduct of affairs ; 



Resigning the Hebn. 135 

for it is not right that, if I be either such a 
fool or such a scoundrel as they and you 
make me out, I should retain the reins. 
There," he added, producing out a bunch of 
keys and flinging them passionately on the 
table, '-'- you had better go to the office to- 
morrow, and make all future arrangements 
for yourself. As for me, if it had not been 
for the children I should have gone right 
away to Australia years ago. It is enough 
for a man to bear the worry of business 
during the day, without coming back to such 
a wretched apology for a home as this.'' 

^^ What a funny idea ! " said Miss Myrton, 
who, having raised the storm, was somewhat 
alarmed at its violence, and thought it good 
policy to treat the quarrel as a jest. ^' I 
think it would be rather amusing to play at 
business for a day." 

^' It shall be for more than a day," Mr. 
Sinclair replied, ^^ or else the whole concern 
shall go to the dogs. As my wife is so 
clever, she shall have an opportunity of 



136 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

exercising her particular gift, or else of starv- 
ing ; for I swear I will never voluntarily go 
into the City again until she tells me she 
finds she has made a mistake, and done me 
the most gross injustice a woman can put 
upon a man." 

"You attach too much importance to 
what Mrs. Sinclair said,'' observed Miss 
Myrton in her new character of peace maker. 

" No, he does not," interposed that lady 
sharply. "I meant it, every word. I 
would not have married had I thought it 
ever could have come to this." 

"I will not recriminate," her husband 
answered; "but neither will I draw back. 
Keep the keys, go down to the office, and 
do what you like. You can rummage my 
papers as much as you please, but you will 
find no love-letters or betting-books amongst 
them. It is high time there was some 
change, and if you think you and your 
friends can do better for yourself and the 
children than I have done, in God's name 



Resigning the Helm. 137 

take the helm. Only remember that what 
I have said I mean. I will never resume 
the conduct of affairs, until you tell me 
you are as sick of responsibility as I have 
been for this many and many a day ; " having 
announced which agreeable resolution, Mr. 
Sinclair walked out of the room and the 
house. 

" My dear, you have gone too far," said 
Miss Myrton. 

Perhaps for the moment Mrs. Sinclair 
thought so also, for her face was very white 
as she arose and, taking up the keys, put 
them in her pocket. 



I3S 



CHAPTEE XI. 

PLAYING WITH EDGED TOOLS. 

When, next morning, Frank Sinclair awoke,, 
it was with the impression that something 
disagreeable had occurred, which would 
have immediately to be faced ; but directly 
after he decided it must be Sunday morning, . 
and the reason which caused him to arrive at 
this conclusion was that he heard a stir and* 
rustle in his wife's dressing-room, sugges- 
tive of the donning of gorgeous apparel. 

Not given to early rising when it might, 
perhaps, have proved a satisfaction to her 
husband, Eella always on Sundays displayed 
a fearful activity, and therefore for a 
moment Frank decided it must be that 



Playing with Edged Tools. 139 

one morning in the week when he and his 
wife walked forth together. Such pleasant 
experiences as a companion for a couple of 
miles on his way to the office, or a familiar 
face meeting him on his return from the 
City and taking his arm as a matter of right 
and love whilst they strolled back together, 
were things of the past and long ago. Even 
that Arcadian sun had shone but for a very 
brief period, and after the first few weeks 
had set altogether. 

It was only for a moment, however, 
that Frank imagined Sunday had come 
round again. Almost as he heard the rustle 
of his wife's skirts the events of the previous 
evening recurred to his memory. He re- 
membered Bella's words, he recalled his 
own ; the moment when, like a gauntlet of 
old, he flung down his keys, was reproduced 
for his benefit; he recollected telling his 
wife to take the management of afiairs, and 
behold — ^but it never could be — she had 
determined to keep him to his word. 



140 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

Frank pulled down his watch, and looked 
at the hands. It was precisely half-past 
:seven. He held the watch to his ear. It 
was going, and his eyes had not deceived 
Tiim. He raised himself on his elbow and 
looked through the half-open door of the 
dressing-room. There he beheld a vision as 
of a woman arrayed in purple and fine 
linen. At this point Frank Sinclair lay 
down again and thought. 

She had taken a burst of passion for the 
-declaration of a settled opinion, and elected 
to abide by it. She had done a marvellous 
thing, at least so he considered — risen in 
the morning in the same mind as she closed 
her eyes at night. She really believed him 
to be incompetent, herself capable of man- 
aging a business ; and, not out of any undue 
feeling of vanity, but merely because he 
■could not understand such utter non-com- 
prehension of life's difficulties, Frank almost 
laughed aloud at the idea. 

Could such insanity really exist? the man 



Playing zvith Edged Tools. 141 

asked himself; for, after all, his experiences 
of the humours of humanity were limited, 
and he did not then quite grasp the fact 
that if there are a hundred men preaching 
sermons, doing their best to keep businesses 
together, wi'iting books, painting pictures, 
designing new inventions, there are a thou- 
sand men who honestly believe they could 
preach better sermons, make larger sums 
out of business, write more successful books,, 
paint finer pictures than those who have 
made such things the employment of their 
lives. 

It is so easy, theoretically, friend, to 
manage your neighbour's affairs better than 
he does ; there is nothing at all difficult in 
driving mentally through crowded streets 
whilst another man holds the reins, which of 
course you could manipulate better. If only 
you had the editorship of some one of our 
magazines, you would speedily raise the cir- 
culation from thousands to tens of thousands ; 
and if Smythe would kindly give you his 



14-2 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

chance — let you, in effect, step into the 
business he has made in the sweat of his 
Lrow — ^you could retire on a quarter of a 
million within five years. 

Which is all very well ; only, perhaps, if 
you had the management of your friend's 
affairs, you would land him in the Gazette 
hefore many months were over, as certainly 
as you would come to grief in the City, if 
you were to undertake to charioteer your- 
self through it. 

Hitherto Frank Sinclair had scarcely 
viewed his wife's opinions from a serious 
point of view. Her temper, her manage- 
ment — or rather want of management — 
her selfishness, her unreasonableness, had 
annoyed him sorely ; but he had never 
realised until now that his wife considered 
him a mere cumberer of the ground — a 
mere obstacle between herself and opu- 
leiice. 

^^ It is because she knows no better," he 
thought. " One day will sicken her : let 



Playing with Edged Tools. 143 

lier go. If such, be her opinion, it is well 
she should prove its fallacy." And straight- 
ivay he rose and dressed, and descended to 
the dining-room, where Mrs. Sinclair was 
partaking of hot tea and toast, ham, eggs, 
and other edibles. 

^^This is a change," said the master of 
the household, seating himself opposite his 
wife. ''My dear Bella, how did you get 
the servants up? " 

'' Oh ! I told them it was necessary I 
should be away early," answered his wife ; 
to which he retorted mentally — 

'' Was it not a pity you never told them 
I must be away early ? " — forgetful, or per- 
haps unconscious, of the fact that women 
work by fits and starts; for which reason 
it may be that their labour is ''never done," 
while " men's work is from sun to sun." 

" What a lovely morning ! " Mrs. Sinclair 
remarked. She was in quite a conversa- 
tional mood. 

" Exquisite," answered Frank ; but still, 



144 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

the beauty of the morning did not strike 
him with any sense of novelty, for he had 
been able to admire many such whilst his 
wife's eyes were closed in slumber. 

*^ I must run away and put on my bon- 
net," she suggested, standing in the door- 
way. 

Many a time afterwards he saw her stand- 
ing thus, with just a shadow of expectancy 
— ^just a trace of fear in her face. Did she 
wish him to remonstrate ? Frank could not 
tell. The game had begun : how would it 
end? 

He walked to the window, and looked 
out, thinking the while whether he should 
permit this folly to continue, or tell his 
wife there had already been too much of it. 
If she really thought he were incompetent, 
or a rogue, was not it better she should have 
an opportunity of proving or disproving her 
suspicions ? 

Let her go for the one day, at all events. 
Let her take his keys, and read his letters, 



Playing with Edged Tools, 145 

and look over his papers, and ransack his 
drawers. Let her see, for once, what life 
in an office was like. Perhaps there might 
be peace between them after such an expe- 
rience. At all events, her temper was already 
improved. Yes, he mentally, in cool blood, 
repeated the resolution he had made in his 
anger the preceding night. She would not 
be inclined, he felt confident, to rise at such 
an unwonted hour a second time; but before 
he resumed the reins she should confess the 
extent of her injustice, and some clear under- 
standing should also be arrived at concern- 
ing their future life. 

He would take advantage of this oppor- 
tunity, and, after letting her weary of her 
own way, endeavour to put matters on a 
more satisfactory footing than had yet been 
established between them. 

Clearly enough he now saw where his mis- 
take had been from the first. He had given 
in to his wife's fancies, petted, humoured, 
pampered her till, like a spoiled child, she 

VOL. T. L 



146 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

did not know what she wanted, and could 
find no better amusement than quarrelling 
with a man who had for so long a time 
refused to quarrel with her in return. 

Yes, she should go. '^ She will return at 
night," he said to himself, ^^ weary and 
humble enough. She will give me back 
my keys, and say she does not think a 
man's life so pleasant a one after all." 

Thus Frank reasoned, forgetting that none 
of the annoyance of business would be at 
all likely to cross her path. She would be 
exempt from anxiety, from care, from fear, 
because utterly ignorant of there being 
cause for any one of the three. Tired she 
might return, but enlightened certainly not. 
But the man could not foresee all this, and 
perhaps if he had foreseen he would still 
have permitted her to continue in the road 
she seemed to desire to travel. 

It was with a sense of satisfaction that 
Mr. Sinclair noticed the utter unsuitability 
of his wife's dress for the role she intended 



Playing with Edged Tools, 147 

to adopt. Had she been about to pay a 
morning visit at the town house of the Dean 
of Eingleton, or to join a pic-nic organised 
by the Honourable Mrs. Clace, she could 
scarcely have arrayed herself with greater 
magnificence. 

" You will get your dress into a mess, I 
am afraid, in my dusty office," said Frank, 
as he walked with her to the outer gate. 

'^ Oh ! no," answered Bella, smiling gra- 
ciously ; " I shall have all that put to rights, 
now." 

^^ Good Heavens ! " thought her husband ; 
but he held his peace, and just then the 
omnibus appearing, he put her into it. 

^^ Good-bye," she said, and held out her 
hand almost affectionately. 

" Good-bye," he answered, and clasped 
her fingers in his. 

After that the conductor banged the door, 
and Frank, having watched the omnibus out 
of sight, walked slowly back into the house 
and sat down in the dining-room to thmk, 

L 2 



148 Fra7ik Sinclair's Wife. 

until interrupted by the entrance of his 
eldest child, who came to ask — 

^' Is it really, really true, papa, you are 
going to stay at home for a whole day ? " 

" Yes, Minnie, I intend doing so." 

^' And please, dear papa, may we have a 
holiday ? " 

" I imagined it was always holiday with 
you," he said. 

" Not quite," she answered ; ^^ I have to 
practice my scales, and draw blocks, and 
teach the little ones to spell — Patty is in 
two syllables." 

" And what are you but a little one ? " 
he asked. 

" Oh, papa ! " Miss Minnie exclaimed 
reproachfully, and then she flung her arms 
round his neck and asked him again for the 
coveted holiday. 

^^ It shall be as you like, dear," he replied. 

" And will you take us for a walk ? " 

^' What, all of you ? " her father remon- 
strated. 



Playing with Edged Tools, 149 

^^ I do not mean, of course, the baby," she 
explained, ^'for he would soon get tired, 
or even Harry; but me, and Tom, and 
Susie." 

'''- And where shall we go ? " 

'^ Go ? oh, anywhere ! " and she ran away 
clapping her hands, and calling out at the 
top of her voice, '' Tom, Susie, we are going 
out with papa I " 

'^ Surely," considered Mr. Sinclair, ^^ this 
is not such a miserable sort of existence, 
after all, that Bella should declare it insup- 
portable, and envy me the drudgery of my 
City life. However, she will not, I fancy, 
care to repeat to-day's experiment, and I 
then really must talk to her seriously. 
Poor Bella! I wish we could understand 
each other better. Now the pecuniary anx- 
ieties are at rest, how happy we might be ! " 

And so, never doubting but that the day 
would end Mrs. Sinclair's aspirations after 
a business career, Frank set himself 
thoroughly to enjoy his holiday. He took 



150 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

the three children to Eichmond, where they 
all ate '^ maids of honour," and roamed 
about for hours. 

Had it not been for thoughts of his wife, 
and a certain pity he could not help feeling 
for the mortification he believed she was 
preparing for herself, he would have been 
perfectly happy, and even as it was he 
could answer Minnie's question, whether he 
did not feel ever so much better for his 
holiday, in the affirmative. 

For he did feel better and younger for 
the change, slight though it had been ; 
and it was not until he came again within 
sight of his own house that the old dull, 
gloomy feeling crept over him once more. 
Life in Briant View Terrace did not seem 
so cheerful an ajffair as it had done amongst 
the pleasant Eichmond meadows — existence, 
with the prospect of his wife returning 
home tired and cross after her self-imposed 
task, was not exactly the same thing as it 
appeared while listening to his children's 



Playing with Edged Tools. 151 

prattle as they walked beside the ^' silvery 
Thames." 

But when Mrs. Sinclair returned, a first 
glance at her face dispelled Frank's appre- 
hensions with regard to a stormy evening. 
She had a great deal to say, and said it. 
She asked Frank how he had amused him- 
self; and when, in tui'n, he inquired if she 
were not very tired, she said cheerfully — 

" Xo ; I have done nothing to tire me. 
I only looked over some of your papers, 
to put them in order, and answered a whole 
tribe of letters I found you had left with- 
out reply. It seems to me that you cannot 
have been a very regular correspondent." 

At which assertion Frank smiled. He 
could have told of reams of letters written, 
and copied, and posted. He could have 
told stories of that last hour before six 
o'clock, which might have appalled any 
person less fond of pen and ink than his 
wife ; but her passion was correspondence. 
She wrote and crossed and recrossed epistles ; 



152 Frank Si7iclair^s Wife. 

filled quire after quire of note paper with, 
details of events not worth recording, of 
gossip not worth repeating; and Mr. Sin- 
clair knew it was in vain to tell her that 
perhaps the hardest work of a business 
man's life is replying in wiiting to the 
mass of inquires which each morning's post, 
ay, and each succeeding post, brings with it. 

'^ Did you keep copies of your letters ? " 
he asked. 

"No. Your head clerk there — what is 
his name ? — said something about copying 
them ; but I had used the wrong ink, and 
of course it was not worth while writing 
the whole of them over again." 

"I do not suppose it will signify," said 
Frank, with a little unconscious irony. 

'^ There was nothing in them of the slight- 
est consequence," she replied, which made 
her husband laugh in spite of himself, as 
he answered — 

'^Perhaps that may have been the reason 
they were left without reply." 



Playing zmth Edged Tools. 153 

To wtLich '' sarcasm," as Miss Myrton 
would have called it, Mrs. Sinclair deigned 
no answer. ' 

'^ You have had enough of the City, I 
should think, Bella,'' her husband remarked, 
after a pause. 

'^Enough of the City!" she repeated; 
" why, I have but just begun to go to it." 

' ' And of course you never wish to go 
there again ; that is what all ladies say." 

*' That may be what the ladies you know 
say ; but I say, having once received your 
authority, I intend to go to the City till I 
have got things a little into order." 

''Till you have got what?" 

" Till I. — have — got — things — a — little 
into — order," she said, laying a distinct 
emphasis on each word. 

For a moment Frank paused, then he 
began — 

"It is quite time, Bella, that you and I 
came to a thorough understanding. I have 
tried to consider to-day's escapade a joke — " 



154 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

^' Oh ! you have," she interrupted. 

^* But now," he went on, unheeding, ^^I 
want to know whether all this be a matter 
of conviction or of temper." 

^^ It may be a matter of temper on your 
part ; it is one of conviction on mine," said 
Mrs. Sinclair. 

'^ That is to state in plain English," he 
replied, '^you consider I am unable to 
manage my own business, and that you 
are able to manage it." 

" If you like to word it so — yes." 

'^ And that you — a woman, a wife, a 
mother — really desire to take my place be- 
cause of my supposed incapacity." 

'^ I want anything which shall make our 
home happier," she answered. 

'' And God knows so do I," he argued. 
^^ Then it comes to this— that you are to be 
the man, and I the woman ; that you are 
to do my work — for I swear we shall not 
both do it ; that you are willing to turn 
out in all weathers, to meet all sorts of 



Playing with Edged Tools. 



people, to endure all sorts of unpleasant- 
ness; and I am to remain at home, to 
manage the cook and the housemaid, to see 
that the children learn their lessons, and 
that the doctor is duly sent for if one of 
them eyince any signs of feverishness." 

" That is the work to which you would 
doom us women," she said. 

'' Then in Heaven's name take men's 
work, and see how you like it," he retorted. 
'^ I will never try to baulk your fancy 
again. Do you know, Bella," he went on, 
with a forced laugh, " all this folly of ours 
reminds me of a story I once heard about a 
Mr. and Mrs. Gourley, who could not agree. 
She always — figuratively, of course — desired 
to wear a portion of his garments, to which 
he naturally enough objected. Well, to 
cut a long story short, one morning he got 
up, and, putting on her clothes, said, ' Now, 
Mrs. Gourley, before sunset we must decide 
whether I am to be you or myself ; ' and 
while the controversy waxed warm, a knock 



156 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

oame, which was answered by the master of 
the house himself. 

^'^Can I see Mr. Gourley?' asked the 
visitor. 

'^ ^ No, I do not think you can at present,' 
was the reply. 

<< ^ Why, surely you are Mr. Gourley ? ' 
said the other. 

^' ' I am not certain for the moment who 
I am,' answered Mr. Gourley, * but if you 
come back this afternoon I may be able 
to answer youi' question.' 

^^ He came back in the afternoon — " 

''And?" questioned Mrs. Sincliar. 

''Mr. Gourley was Mr. Gourley once 
again ; and Mrs. Gourley, Mrs. Gourley 
stiU." 

" What a foolish story ! " said the 
lady. 

"Yes, my dear," was the answer; '* there 
are a great many foolish stories, and foolish 
people, about in the world still." 

" That there certainly are, particularly 



Playing with Edged Tools. 157 

the latter," said Mrs. Sinclair, as she rose 
to light a chamber candle. 

'^ Then you are quite determined to con- 
tinue going to the office ? " said Mr. Sin- 
clair. 

^^ Quite, as you have goaded me on to 
this point — unless you wish to withdraw 
your permission." 

^' Oh ! no," he answered. ^^When I go 
to the City again you shall ask me to do 
so — be quite satisfied on that point, Bella." 

And yet ten minutes after he was anathe- 
matising his own obstinacy and his own 
folly. " She will tire," he comforted him- 
self by thinking, " in a day or two, and 
be very glad for me to take her place." 

But the days went by, and still she did 
not ask him to take her place, and showed 
no sign of either weariness or distrust. 



158 



CHAPTER XII. 

MR. SINCLAIE's DIAEY. 

Aeout this time a very remarkable thing 
occurred. Mr. Sinclair commenced keeping 
a diary, and from it for the future extracts 
shall be given. The opening paragraphs 
reveal its raison d?etre, Mr. Sinclair's 
volume commenced as follows : — 

'^ A month ago, had any one told me I 
should ever write a journal, I should have 
laughed the idea to scorn. I always thought 
it was an occupation only fit for girls, child- 
less wives, and hopeless spinsters ; and 
yet, here am I, strong in body, sound in 



Mr. Sinclair's Diary. 159 

limb, who ought to be in the City looking 
after the interests of myself and family, 
sitting in this cool room like a Sybarite, 
with flowers near, and sunshine all around 
me, inditing just for want of something to 
do and some one to talk to — not indeed a 
goodly matter, but a chronicle of such small 
beer as is brewed in the course of my daily 
life. 

^^It is not a bad life as times go. If I 
could get over the absurdity of my anoma- 
lous position, and feel assured that things in 
the City were not going to the dogs, I 
should rather like it. Suppose some decent 
fellow, now, somebody whom I do not know 
— for in the first place decent fellows are 
rare, and decent fellows blessed with 
fortunes are still rarer — were to give or 
leave me ten thousand pounds on condition 
of my leading so purely simple an existence, 
I could do it without grumbling ; but, then, 
not having the ten thousand pounds makes 
all the difference. 



l6o Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

^^This is not much like a diary, I am 
afraid ; at least it is not at all like the thing 
I kept in the City. In that I know there 
is: 13th— See Jones 12 o'clock. 14th— 
Meeting of Creditors re Eobinson. 15th — 
Smith's promissory note. 16th — Own ac- 
ceptance, and so forth. But that is not a 
diary exactly ; it is a series of memoranda 
of disagreeable events which are to be — not 
a chronicle of events that have occurred. A 
man I know in the City could tell me where 
he dined any day for the last twenty years, 
and he has preserved the menu of every 
grand banquet of which he has partaken for 
a similar period ; but that is not keeping a 
diary. A lady who used to visit me has a 
record of how she spent each evening since 
she was eighteen, we wiU say; and, according 
to her dates, she must now be three-and- 
thirty. If one may believe that diary, she 
has met or seen every person worth meeting 
or seeing, and can tell one what they wore 
and what they said. But that is not a diary 



Mr. Sinclair's Diary. i6i 

precisely — at least, it is a diary only of the 
thoughts, speeches, and feelings of other 
persons, not of one's own. A true diary, it 
seems to me, would be that of a fellow who 
commenced keeping it when he could speak, 
and got some one else to write it for him 
till he learned to make pot-hooks for himself. 
I wish babies could keep diaries ; I should 
like to know what they think about. 

^' Well, here am I, as I have said, writing 
a history, which I mean to read some day to 
Bella, when she has come to her senses. By 
that time, possibly, it will be the only article 
of property left to us. If I could go back 
and prevent her making such an incredible 
idiot of herself, should I prevent it ? No, I 
think not. It was, perhaps, quite time she 
went to the City and I stayed at home. 
The place where ruin is wrought signifies 
but little. If she do not ruin me at the 
office, she would certainly have done so 
here. 
' '^ I have been at home, now, for six days. 

VOL. I. M 



1 62 Frank Sinclair^ s Wife. 

Speaking correctly, this is the sixth — Tues- 
day. The first day I took the children to 
Eichmond. The second, I went with them 
to Greenwich. Saturday, in order to place 
myself in funds to sustain the siege my wife 
evidently intends to maintain, I went to 
a broker in Broad Street, and directed him 
to sell out a few shares I held in a certain 
unprofitable little company, that has never 
yet paid anybody connected with it three 
per cent. The result of that sale I saw in 
yesterday's Times (I treat myself now to the 
Times^ at a penny an hour). The shares are 
down a quarter; so at this juncture I am 
glad it was I who sold, and not somebody 
else. I mean, when I get the proceeds, to 
open a fresh banking account — perhaps at 
the savings bank — and so place myself in 
an independent position as regards house- 
keeping. 

'' I hope I never made housekeeping or 
pocket or pin money unpleasant to Bella. I 
do not think I should like to have to ask her 



Mr. Sinclair's Diary. 163 

for daily supplies ; and yet I am aware my 
omitting to do so is filling her mind with the 
darkest suspicions as to my former probity. 

'^ ^ People cannot go to Eichmond and 
Greenwich for nothing,' she argues, I have 
no doubt, ^ and he must, therefore, have had 
a large amount stored away, of which I 
knew nothing.' "Well, Bella, the day may 
come when you will know me better — the 
day has come in which I know you better, 
and the knowledge is not quite agreeable. 

^' Being left in charge of an establishment, 
I had an idea — possibly erroneous — that I 
ought to look after it a little, and conse- 
quently inquired yesterday for the trades- 
men's weekly bills. 

'' 'Missus don't have any,' answered the 
housemaid. 

" ' Well, but there must be some bills 
this week, because I have paid for nothing,' 
I said, my conscience accusing me the 
while that I had been less careful than my 
wife. 

M 'I 



164 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

'^ ^ If you please, sir, I think they run to 
the end of the quarter,' was the woman's 
reply. 

'^ Hearing which, I ascertained the names 
of the tradespeople, and sallied out to ask 
for a statement of our general indebtedness. 

" "When a woman has a certain sum per 
week entrusted to her in order to pay 
butcher, and baker, and candlestick maker, 
I think she ought to pay them ; but that is, 
I am aware, a mere matter of opinion. This 
is one of the many advantages of being a 
wife. Had Arabella been my housekeeper, 
I certainly should have been entitled to give 
her in charge for misappropriation. 

^^ But I must not condemn her unheard. 
Here are the bills — not pleasant to look 
upon. The butcher's, a series of hiero- 
glyphics, the only intelligible thing in the 
business being the sum total; the milk- 
man's, which he ekes out with halfpennies 
as largely as he does his milk with water ; 
the baker, who out of quarterns has con- 



Mr. Sinclair's Diary. 165 

structed an edifice of debt almost as big as 
the Pyramids; the greengrocer, who deals 
likewise in oranges and nuts, fresh straw- 
berries, and fruit for preserving, and who 
seems, if his statement be correct, not yet to 
have received remuneration for the mistletoe 
under which I kissed nobody last Christmas 
Day, and the holly which adorned our 
drawing-room mirror, to the serious detri- 
ment of a new satin paper. 

^^ There are others likewise. Here is a 
very dirty envelope, the seal of which is wet 
and clammy, and as I draw forth the paper 
it seems to be redolent of shrimps. Gracious 
Heaven ! "When could we — when did we — 
eat all this fish? Whilst as for the coal 
merchant, it is a simple impossibility that 
our modest household ever consumed this 
amount of fuel. 

^^Poor Bella! If she had such a series 
of Damocles' swords hanging over her head, 
I do not wonder at her temper being a trifle 
sour. 



1 66 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 



" "WTiat ought I to do ? Accept the bills 
as correct and pay them, or ask her about 
them ? Certainly not the latter. She must 
never be able to say I could not manage the 
house as well as she can manage the office, 
and so far she has not condescended to ask 
me a question. I informed her, indeed, that 
no money ought to be paid to any one until 
after the fifth, when a heavy bill would have 
to be provided for ; but she has treated my 
suggestion with indifference — at least so 
McLean, whom I have requested to call or 
write no more on business, informed me. 

'' Perhaps she may have had as cogent 
reasons for not paying these gentry, as I for 
not heeding the smaller fry of duns till the 
great wolf was satisfied ; but of course her 
reasons cannot affect me. Better clear all off, 
and begin de novo^ on a strictly cash system. 
Then I shall see what a style of living by 
no means princely or luxurious really costs. 
At present it strikes me that, by comparison, 
lodging-house life is economy itself. 



Mr, Sinclair'' s Diary, i6 



^' As for Bella, emphatically the City suits 
her admirably. Her temper is diyine ; her 
appetite excellent. The way in which she 
rises morning after morning at the first tap of 
Catharine's knuckles fills me with a terrible 
surprise, not to say envy ; and what amazes 
me still more is the way in which Catharine 
and Anna Maria arise also. To be sure, I have 
ascertained that they take it in turn to pre- 
pare breakfast, and that when Catharine comes 
down Anna Maria returns to her couch — 
which is an admirable arrangement, though 
one, I should have imagined, scarcely con- 
templated by Mrs. Sinclair when they were 
engaged. Purther, Elizabeth, the nursery- 
maid, has the kitchen fire always lighted 
for them, and the kettle on, by the time 
they come down, and they lay the breakfast 
things over-night, so the hardship is reduced 
to a minimum. 

" However, that early rising is a hardship 
no one can deny. Even Arabella has, I 
fancy, some idea of the kind. She yawns 



1 68 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

frequently now at breakfast, and does not 
say much about the beauty of the morning. 

"I wonder when she will tire of it — or 
rather confess she is tired of it. One thing 
I do know, however : even when she is 
heartily disgusted with the City — as I would 
to Heaven she were now — I will interfere a 
little more in the expenditure here than I 
have ever done. I will not have such 
another array as this marshalled before me. 
I thought we might have been extravagant ; 
but imagined we had, at least, paid our way. 
It seems in this I was mistaken. Moral: 
In how many things may one be mistaken ? 

" Wednesday. — Before paying the accounts 
referred to in yesterday's chronicle, I ex- 
amined a few of the items — notably those 
charged on Thursday, Friday, Saturday — 
and have come to the conclusion that if the 
goods so charged ever arrived on the pre- 
mises, they were not consumed there. What 
confirms me in the latter opinion is, that 
when a sirloin of beef which did duty on 



Mr, Sinclair^ Diary. 169 

Sunday hot, re-appeared on Monday cold, it 
was but a wreck of its former self. 

^^ So far I have made no observations ; but 
observations concerning the children's din- 
ner have been made to me, and yet of my 
own personal knowledge I can state that 
their mid-day repast consisted on Monday of 
boiled mutton and a huge plum pie, of both 
of which dishes I partook, not without 
relish. Fui'ther, there have been dark allu- 
sions to a cat, which I generally see either 
in the embrace of Susie, or else fast asleep 
on a mat in the conservatory. Cats, I be- 
lieve, are addicted to thieving, but I never 
yet heard of one that had a penchant for 
brandy and water, or even a glass of wine, 
and yet these articles diminish unaccountably. 

'•'• Perhaf)S our cat is an abnormal creature, 
and tipples when no one is by. If this be 
the case all I can say is, spite of her demure 
looks, she must be the most deceitful of her 
sex. However, time proves most things, 
and supposing I ever detect puss sipping 



lyo Franh Sinclair s Wife. 

intoxicating liquor from a decanter, having 
previously taken out the stopper to facilitate 
arrangements, I shall certainly set up a 
show in the front garden, and invite the 
superfluous sixpences of all passers-by. . 

*' Meanwhile, Bella still goes to the City. 
She does not like, I fancy, being remarked 
as a ^ regular passenger,' so now we walk 
down the road till we strike a fresh line of 
omnibuses, by one of which she proceeds to 
her destination. !N'ot a sentence about busi- 
ness have I heard for a whole week, I have 
not opened a letter, I have not asked a 
question, I have not had any confidence re- 
posed in me. McLean came up to tell me 
there would not be enough money to meet 
AUington's bill, as Mrs. Sinclair was paying 
every one who asked for cash the?' most per- 
sistently ; but I informed him I had left 
everything to her management, and did not 
want to be troubled about business again at 
present. 

'' The look of pity on the fellow's face 



Mr. Sinclair s Diary, 171 

would have been absurd had it not been so 
genuine. Clearly he thinks I have lost my 
senses. The neighbours imagine I am ill ; 
seeing me lounging about the garden, and 
walking with the children at unwonted 
hours, they have arrived at the conclusion 
that something is the matter with my 
health, and some half-a-dozen have sent 
cards and kind inquiries, and even gone the 
length of stopping Minnie in the street to 
ask whether her papa be ill, and what is the 
matter with him. 

*^Here, likewise, is a letter I have just 
received — 

" 'Southampton, August 18tli. 
" * Dear Sinclair, — I cannot tell you how dis- 
tressed I was to hear of your illness from McLean. 
What is wrong ? I fear it must be something serious 
to necessitate your staying at home for so long a time. 
Had I not been compelled to leave for Guernsey to- 
night, I should have run up to see you. I heard 
Mrs. Sinclair was in town, and called at the officer- 
but she was out, and I could not wait for her return. 
If I can be of any service, pray command me. 
" * Tours faithfully, 

"*E. Vaeham.' 



172 Frank Sinclair s Wife, 

^^I wonder what he thinks is the matter 
with me. Softening of the brain, possibly. 
Hardening of the heart would be nearer the 
mark. Oh ! to think of all I hoped, of all 
I expected, of the happy home-picture I 
drew for myself in the garden at Mulford ! 

*^And yet, perhaps, I am scarcely right 
io think myself a fool ; for if I am one, I am 
only one in company with the wisest and 
strongest of men. Was not Adam but as a 
reed in the hands of Eve ? And why should 
I blame myself for not being cleverer than 
the greatest historical characters since the 
Creation ? 

" Why indeed ? But I am placed in a 
more difficult position than any of them — at 
least, so it seems to me — and that makes me, 
perhaps, too severe on my own want of 
moral courage. Adam had no house to 
manage. Samson pulled one about the ears 
of his persecutors. Solomon took to berail- 
ing men, women, and circumstances; but 
no man with whom I am acquainted, in the 



Mr, Sinclair s Diary, 173 

whole range of sacred or profane story, was 
ever left at home with a house and servants 
and five small children on his hands, whilst 
his wife, who had never managed her own 
establishment, undertook to manage his 
ajffairs. 

'' Heaven send me safe through it ! To- 
morrow I think I shall make a trial trip to 
the basement, and see what is going on in 
the kitchen. It will not be a nice expedi- 
tion, but it may be necessary for all that. 

'^ * Papa,' says Susie, climbing on my 
knee at this juncture, ^what is a Molly 
Coddle, and who is Mr. Paul Pry ? ' 

^' "With a dreadful prevision of what was 
to follow, I answered, ^ A Molly Coddle, my 
dear, is a philanthropist towards himself and 
his own wants ; and Mr. Paul Pry is a 
kindly sort of person, who takes a great in- 
terest in the welfare of his friends and 
neighbours.' 

*^ '- Then that is what Catharine says you 
are,' said my candid darling, laying her rosy 



174 Frank Sinclair s Wife, 

cheek on my shoulder, and looking up into 
my face with her great blue eyes. 

^' Clearly, the fact that children should be 
taught to honour their father and mother 
has formed no part of Catharine's educa- 
tion." 



^75 



CHAPTER XIII. 

FROM ANOTHER SIDE. 

''My dearest Millicext (thus Mrs. Sin- 
xilair, who wrote long letters instead of a 
diary — there are some women who do so, 
just as there are some women happily who 
do neither), you will be anxious to hear all 
about my proceedings, and I therefore, 
having finished my morning's work, devote 
the remainder of this lovely forenoon to you, 

'^ How I envy you, dear independent 
creature, who can go here and there without 
being controlled by either circumstances or 
home ties ! Take my advice, and never 
marry. I say this, although Frank has been 



176 Fra7ik Sinclairh Wife, 

amiability itself since I have put my 
shoulder to the wheel. IN'o doubt he felt 
himself unequal for the work — entre nous^ he 
ought to have been the woman, I the man. 
He has just the quality of mind which 
delights in looking after small details. I 
have heard of persons who could do anything, 
from tying a shoe-string to calculating the 
coming of a comet ; but for my part, I do 
not believe such legends. It must be shoe- 
string or comet, of that I am quite certain. 

*' Well, my dear, but this is digressing, 
and I have so much to say, and so little space 
to say it in. Whilst you are luxuriating 
beside the glorious sea, here am I writing to 
you from a City office, to which I have 
come regularly every day (Sunday, of course, 
excepted) for a whole week. Thank you 
for your kind answer to my little note 
telling you I had got into harness. 

" The office is not at all dingy — indeed, it 
is much more cheerful than many a sitting- 
room ; and I have had it thoroughly cleaned 
and put to rights. 



From Allot her Side. 177 

'' How Frank ever was able to find his 
papers, I cannot imagine — bnt then, what 
would a man's shelves and drawers be like 
at home, if a woman were not always at 
hand to make things tidy ? 

^^ From where T sit there is a glimpse of 
the Thames, looking bright and silvery in 
the sunshine, and there is nothing in all 
this City life which seems dull and dreary, 
as men try to make it out. Indeed, could I 
walk into oijier offices, and make and do 
business like a man, I think a commercial 
career must be very exciting and pleasant • 
but in the ipresent imperfect state of society, 
a woman can do nothing b'd bear the burdens 
man places on her shoulders. I hope I am 
effecting a little good here, however. The 
clerks, particularly one McLean, seem to 
be most industrious and anxious. You can 
easily understand that until I came to the 
office they never comprehended the import- 
ance of constant and devoted attention. 

^^Mr. McLean, indeed, rather bores me 

VOL. I. N 



178 FranJz Sinclair'* s Wife. 

with advice, but I make allowances for over- 
zeal. 

'^ Do you know, I rise now quite early, and 
feel the better for it ? Whilst you, luxu- 
rious creature, are sipping the cup of coffee 
Finette brings you or reading pleasant letters 
from friends, I am travelling by omnibus to 
the City. 

'* I do not now come by what I used to 
call Frank's omnibus, as I found the gentle- 
men were beginning to regard me as a 
'regular passenger,' and wished to establish 
a speaking acquaintance on the strength of 
the fact. I very much dislike the omnibus 
journey, however, by any route. I meet 
many girls and women going to City ware- 
houses and workrooms, and I cannot say 
they have confirmed my idea concerning the 
glorious future in store for our sex. 

'^ Ah, my dear, how sadly has female 
education been neglected ! I assure you 
these poor creatures have not an idea beyond 
dress, admiration, and amusement. When 



From Another Side. 179 

a gentleman gets into the omnibus it is quite 
pitiable to see the conscious looks of even 
very plain girls, who giggle and bite their 
lips, and whisper to each other, as if a 
husband were the one tiling needful, 

^' I am afraid many of them think he is. 
How will it be ten years after marriage ? 
How indeed ! 

^' Every morning Frank walks with me to 
the omnibus. At first he made some little 
opposition to my taking his place, but that 
has now quite ceased. The children and he 
seem perfectly happy together, but the ser- 
vants naturally do not like my absence or 
his interference. 

"They have been much more attentive 
lately, however. I think it touches them 
seeing how hard / have to work : at all 
events, I never am obliged to wait one 
second for my breakfast, and you remember 
how poor Frank used to complain of having 
to go without any — hut then men are so im- 
patient, 

N 2 



i8o Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

^' Do you know, dear, since I came here I 
have paid away nearly one thousand pounds. 
It seems a great deal of money, does it not ? 
The interest would be fifty pounds a year 
for life, so you see I must have been right, 
and that the business is a good one if only 
properly managed. 

'' There was one poor man to whom I 
paid two hundred and fifty pounds. He 
assured me with tears in his eyes that he 
had been trying to get that amount from Mr. 
Sinclair for six months without avail, and 
that the payment would preserve him from 
bankruptcy. 

^' He took my hand in both of his and 
blessed me. And now, just to show you what 
men are, even the best of them, when Mr. 
McLean came in he was quite put out at 
the poor man having been paid. He said he 
was a swindler and a hypocrite, and told 
me in so many words that I shoujd bring 
destruction on the business. 

^'He is always talking about some stupid 



From Another Side, i8i 



payment on the fifth, as thougli, when a 
thousand pounds has been raised in so short 
a time, there would not be plenty to meet a 
dozen payments between this and the fifth. 
If it were not that Erank is now so kind 
and good, and devotes himself so completely 
to my amusement and comfort, I could 
shriek aloud when I think of the manner in 
which he used grudgingly to give me five 
pounds. 

" Why, fifty times ^^^ would be nothing 
out of such a business, properly managed. 
Yesterday I bought the sweetest dress you 
ever beheld, and a wonderful bargain in 
checked silk for the girls; but do you 
know, I have not yet had courage to take 
the parcel home. Last week I ordered a 
new bonnet, and Frank said — 

" * Ah ! I thought the City would soon 
take the gloss off that splendid lilac affair.' 

" Of course he meant it for a sneer — 
because men never can understand how 
unsuitable a woman's dress is, if she be 



1 82 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

intended to do actual work ; and in con- 
sequence I do not like to send home the 
dresses. I have locked them up in a cup- 
board, for when Mr. McLean saw the label 
he groaned — actually groaned, my dear ! 

"You will laugh when I tell you the 
part of City life I dislike most — having to 
live on sandwiches. The first day I had 
nothing but a Bath bun and a strawberry 
ice ; the next, a biscuit and a little lemon- 
ade ; the third, I took Mr. McLean into my 
confidence, told him I was a very poor 
breakfast-eater, and had always been accus- 
tomed to take luncheon when my children 
had their dinner in the middle of the day. 
I think that touched him — men are so stupid 
about children, although they will not sacri- 
fice anything for them — and he actually 
undertook to get me a chop. 

" Shall I ever forget that chop ? It was 
brought in on a hot- water dish, and stoam in 
grease, which had saturated the potatoes. 
There were besides a thick lump of bread^ 



From Another Side, 183 

a salt-cellar without a spoon, a japanned 
pepper-castor, a knife "with a black handle, 
and a steel fork. 

" If I add that the tray was covered with 
a soiled cloth, you may imagine the appe- 
tising nature of the repast. 

"This is the direct effect of man's pre- 
sence. Each day I see Mr, McLean par- 
taking with relish of just such a meal, so 
served. 

'-'- Of course, I could not touch the dainty 
repast, and have ever since brought some 
sandwiches with me. But sandwiches are 
apt to grow monotonous. 

"Since I wrote the first part of this 
letter, there has been a great upset at home. 
Frank, like all men hasty, discharged the 
cook, and the housemaid discharged herself. 

''''Imagine my feelings when I entered one 
evening to find both servants gone, and no 
one save an ignorant girl in charge of the 
establishment. I remonstrated, but of 



184 F'rank Sinclair's Wife, 

course imavailingly. I proposed to make 
peace, T whose household was always peace- 
ful, but was met with the assurance that I 
could not do two things. I could not 
manage a business in the City and my 
servants at home as well. 

^^I said ^I thought I could,' but Frank, 
with almost a sneer, said, ' l^o, the thing 
is impossible. Either you must be Mrs. 
Gourley,' he remarked, referring to that 
horrid story, '- or I must ; and if you elect 
to return to be Mrs. Gourley, I shall expect 
the establishment to be much better man- 
aged than heretofore. I cannot afford to feed 
a dozen families out of my income.' 

'^Having uttered which nasty jeer, he 
went out for a walk with Minnie ; and while 
I was crying ready to break my heart in the 
drawing-room, Susie came up to my chair, 
and said, ^ Mamma, you are not one-half so 
nice as papa.' I could not help slapping 
her. Eeally children are as ungrateful as 
adults. And then she began to cry, and 



From Another Side. 185 

say she would tell her papa; and she did 
tell him, but he only remarked aggravat- 
ingly— 

^^ '- You are mistaken, Susie, I am not one- 
half so nice as your mamma ; I indulge you 
too much, and it is not well for children to 
be indulged.' 

^^ ^ I think it is well for me,' Susie said, 
and then she drew up quite close to him, far 
as possible from me — and I have always 
tried to be so kind to my children. Haven't 
I, dear Millicent ? 

"I do not really think any woman was 
ever so sadly placed as I. No one seems to 
sympathise with me, except you, dearest. 
You understand my trouble and my position. 
Fancy five children and an utterly incom- 
petent husband — amiable, but powerless to 
avert misfortune or mantain a position ! 
What will be the result of all this ? Shall 
I be able to put things on a more satisfactory 
footing, or are they hopeless ? To be sure, I 
must say that, spite of poor Frank's neglect. 



1 86 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 



the business appears healthy, and capable of 
much extension. 

^* Judging from the tone of his corre- 
spondents, he has not answered letters 
regularly; and I trust, therefore, that 
much business will follow from my own 
punctuality. "Wish me success, dear, and 
believe me ever yours affectionately, 

'^A. Sinclair." 

To which Mrs. Sinclair received the 
following reply : — 

^' Dearest, — How I feel for your sad lot ! 
It is indeed lamentable to consider Jiow the 
very best women are those most severely 
tried. Would I were near you now to help ; 
or, if I could not help, to condole, or perhaps 
better, say, sympathise. 

*'When I think of it, I really have no 
patience; though, indeed, even at the risk 
of offending you, I must say again, I fancy 
you went a little tiny bit too far that night. 



From Ariother Side, 187 

Mr. Sinclair felt your remarks, I could see 
clearly ; and although they were quite true, 
it was natural he should feel them — possibly 
on that very account. 

''But then, I have not patience to think 
of you — dear, high-spirited, energetic, cou- 
rageous creature that you are — being placed 
in such a position. The fact of your ability 
to manage his business more ably than your 
husband, is surely no reason why you ought 
to be compelled to do so ; and he is com- 
pelling you, I clearly see. How he can 
bear your going about in those horrid 
omnibuses by yourself baffles my compre- 
hension- — amongst all kinds of men and 
women too ! 

'' Oh, you poor thing ! I could cry when 
I think about you — and when am I now 
doing anything else ? 

''If I am walking, I say mentally, 'How 
dear Bella would enjoy this ! ' When I am 
looking at the sweet, familiar sea, I imagine 
your delight were you gazing at it also. 



Frank Sinclair's Wife. 



When I am out for a drive, I consider how 
much good the bracing air would do you, 
poor darling ; and when I come home from 
my morning dip, I think, ^ What a deal of 
good sea-bathing would do that dear child ! ' 
But it is of no use wishing, is it, love ? If 
wishing could bring you here, I should see 
the door open and you enter at this 
moment. 

^'Some day, perhaps, we may hope to 
enjoy this lovely place together. Mean- 
while, you too will want to know something 
of my daily life. Eeally, dear, it seems to 
me that since I came here I have done 
nothing save eat, sleep, bathe, amuse my- 
self, and talk ! 

^^ When I think of your industry I blush. 
We make up a pleasant party, though it is 
€omposed of incongruous materials. First 
there is Mrs. Hantrey, our hostess — cer- 
tainly one of the most charming women I 
ever met. So far as I know she has only a 
single fault : she is devoted to a plain, heavy, 



From Another Side. 189 

stupid husband; laughs at his tiresome 
jokes ; humours his singular fancies ; and, 
although it is of course impossible she can 
really do so, professes to believe there is no 
one like him on earth. Then we have an 
astronomer, who talks of little excepting 
Saturn; an author with a dreadful wife 
(why is it that nice men marry such horrid 
women, and vice versa F) ; a girl who writes 
melancholy poetry, and thinks some day she 
may attain to the unhappiness of Mrs. 
Hemans, or end tragically like L. E. L. — 
that is her idea of perfect bliss ; a lad who 
has a charming voice, and sings exquisitely, 
and likes, I fancy — he ^not being really one 
bit sentimental — to see tears in the eyes of 
those w/io have eaten of Ufe'^s fennel ; a widow 
from the Sister Isle, with neither money nor 
beauty, but possessed of plenty of mother- 
wit, and apt at repartee; together with a 
Mr. Munro, a very clever barrister, complete 
oair party. 

"The latter gentleman holds the most 



190 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

advanced and correct ideas on the subject of 
women's capabilities, of any person — male or 
female — I remember to have heard speak on 
the subject. There is only one point on 
which we disagree. He says, ' There is 
nothing man could not make of woman; 
there is no height to which he might not 
elevate her, if he set himself heartily to the 
work.' 

"Now 1 say, * There is nothing woman 
could not make of herself; there is no 
height to which she might not rise, were 
she only true to herself — faithful to her 
noble origin.' 

'^You, dear, have done — you have been 
this. I so often speak of your noble self- 
denial — of your brave abnegation of social 
rules. 

" He longs to know you : he declares you 
must be a * perfect woman,' and of course, 
dear, I declare you are not — being utterly 
disloyal to you ! ! ! 

"Write constantly, and tell me all about 



From Another Side. 191 

everything. I was so amused with your 
description of the domestic rebellion. Mr. 
Munro was intensely delighted to find yon 
had hit off one weakness of his sex capitally 
— viz., their belief in being able to perform 
women's duties better than women them- 
selves. And you, dear, and your servants 
always got on so capitally, and they seemed 
so devoted to you. But there, I must say 
no more, or I may vex you ; for after all, are 
you not married, and is not your husband 
the first to you ? 

^^ And now, dearest, good-bye. Write as 
often as you can, and give me one of your 
charming naive letters whenever it is 
possible. 

^^ Always your lovingly attached 

'^M. Myeton." 



192 



CHAPTEE XIV. 

AN INTERRUPTED SOIREE. 

Letters are ghosts, or rather accusing 
witnesses. They photograph our thoughts, 
our troubles, our wishes, our joys, our sins ; 
and which of these things are pleasant in 
the retrospect? IS'ot the likeness of our 
thoughts, for they are dead and gone ; not 
that of our troubles, bearing an impression 
we love not to remember ; not that of our 
wishes, which, whether gratified or ungra- 
tified, are our wishes no longer ; not that of 
our sins, which turn no lovely faces to us 
now. No : letters should be written on the 
sand of the sea-shore, for the next high tide 
to wash away from sight and memory. 



An Interrupted Soiree. 193 

First cousins, perhaps, to the grains of 
sand are post-cards, since one might imagine 
little of importance could be retained on 
them. Yet some people possess such ex- 
quisite tact, and have such small reluctance 
to wear their hearts where daws may peck, 
that they will dun for that five pounds, or 
indicate where the wound festers on an 
open memorandum, to save a halfpenny. It 
always delights me to hear of these people 
having used two cards for the purpose ; that 
is to say, they write the address on one side, 
and the matter on the other, and then, be- 
hold, the things have stuck together, and 
the reverse of each is blank, and the missive 
has cost just a penny ! 

But the post-card, with all its capability 
in some hands for giving present annoyance, 
never can in the future raise such ghosts, 
recall such skeletons, as old letters. Take a 
bundle of your own', carefully hoarded by 
some acquaintance too fondly attached to 
friends and old relics to destroy one of the 

VOL I. 



194 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

valuable documents, and what do you think 
of the feelings, sentiments, fears, hopes, 
therein expressed ! 

Or pick out at random, from a long un- 
used cabinet, letters you placed there in 
years gone by. Do you think the people 
who were not afraid to write would care to 
read them? 

There came a day, I know, when Mrs. 
Sinclair, finding a package of epistles crossed 
and recrossed, tied up with pink ribbon, 
and labelled " M. Myrton," flung it intact 
into the fire ; but that little feat of temper 
was far from her thoughts in the golden 
summer time of which I am writing. 

" I fear " — so Frank's diary proceeds, 
after the remark already quoted concerning 
Catharine and Susie — '^ I shall never be 
able to keep a diary so regularly as I kept 
my books ; and if it be not kept regularly, 
of course it cannot be a diary. Shall I make 
it a weekly affair, as some people do their 



An Interrupted Soiree. 195 

Tiousehold bills, or bring it out with the 
magazines ? If I am to do it at all, I fancy 
I bad better try to keep the thing properly; 
for, after all, events are like expenditure. 
It is difficult to remember the items after 
the lapse of twenty-four hours. What a 
thing habit is ! When I was in business 
and went to the City every day, I should as 
soon have thought of keeping a diary as of 
omitting to balance my cash ; and now I 
never balance my cash, and I keep a diary 
or at least attempt to do so, and feel uncom- 
fortable at having made no entry for three 
days. 

" What is the last event recorded? — Oh ! 
that I was considered a Molly Coddle and a 
Paul Pry by my domestics. I say was, 
because, although they may remain of the 
.same opinion, and probably do, they are 
my domestics no longer. It seems strange 
to write the word ' my ' in connection with 
female servants, but when a man comes to 
be mistress of a household, he cannot well 

o 2 



196 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

help having something to say to those who- 
are supposed to be under him. 

^' They had never been under my wife, 
and that created a diificulty. So long as the 
Catharine for the time being took her up 
a comfortable breakfast, say, a couple of hours 
after my departure, and dressed her hair 
properly and made herself tidy — not to add 
smart towards the afternoon, when visitors 
were expected to call — so long as she failed 
in none of these arduous tasks, and the 
cook attended regularly to receive orders,, 
was clever at pastry and pudding making, 
and could serve an omelet, or some outre 
dish, to the satisfaction of — well, suppose 
the Dean of Eingleton, or the honourable 
Mrs. Clace, or Miss Myrton, or any other 
favoured mortal whose society my wife 
affected, Bella — wisely perhaps — never 
troubled herself about minor details. 

*^ It was expensive, but then she had not 
to pay that expense, and it was easy. As 
this diary is, of course, not intended for 



An Interrupted Soiree, 197 

publication, I may hint, without treason, 
that I am afraid my treasure, spite of her 
recent early rising and commendable atten- 
tion to business, is fond of ease. 

^^ That may, however, to quote Miss 
Myrton, be only my ' male want of apprecia- 
tion.' 

^^ Sometimes these very clever women have 
a curious elliptical way of expressing them- 
selves — and yet not elliptical, so far as I am 
concerned, for I have not the remotest idea 
■ of what Miss Myrton generally thinks she 
means. 

^^!N'o human being can imagine the satis- 
faction I feel at Miss Myrton' s absence ; the 
only drawback being, she is certain not to 
remain absent for ever. I wonder whether 
my wife has written to her an account of 
the servants' defection, and if so, what she 
said — whether she gave the true, unvar- 
nished narrative with which I furnished her, 
or one taken from the feminine and imagina- 
tive point of view. It is said that faces have 



198 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

a * mother's side : ' I am sure facts have a 
woman's side ; but this is beside the ques- 
tion. 

"The departure of tbe cook and house- 
maid occurred in this wise : — After much 
exercise of spirit and a greater trial of cou- 
rage than I ever had experienced, even when 
going to ask my bankers to discount a bill, 
I at length descended into the front kitchen. 
It was an accident which ultimately decided 
me to do this ; but I had for days been tell- 
ing myself that if I ever were to make a 
good mistress, I ought, once at all events, 
to visit my domestics' own particular do- 
main. 

** Whether I ever should have carried out 
this, intention, however, had I not — want- 
ing a glass of water — rung seven times for 
it without the slightest notice being taken 
of the bell, is doubtful; but as the water 
did not come to me, I determined to go to 
the water. 

"As I went down the stairs I heard, 



An Interrupted Soiree. 199 

through the closely-shut door, a murmur as 
of many people talking, and when I turned 
the handle and entered, I beheld a spectacle 
which might not have surprised Bella, but 
which certainly startled me. 

" On the table, covered with a fair white 
cloth, were spread the various delicacies of 
the season. A cool and refreshing salad 
occupied the post of honour beside the re- 
mains of a noble sirloin of beef. There was 
a portion of a cold ham (I made my observa- 
tions subsequently, and at my leisure); 
there were preserves, fresh butter, new 
bread ; a lobster — the gift, I have reason to 
believe, of a gi-ateful fishmonger, for it 
never was charged to, or paid for by, me ; 
radishes, red and white, water-cresses — a 
contribution, likewise, of a grateful green- 
grocer ; periwinkles — the gift of one of the 
guests, who had carried those dainties all 
the way from Hatton Garden (it is a strange 
idiosyncrasy of female domestics that if they 
have the fat of the land and the increase 



200 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

thereof, they still crave for water-cresses 
and periwinkles) ; there was a plum tart ; 
there was a great jug of ale that I am con- 
fident had been often replenished during the 
previous half-hour ; there was likewise a tea- 
tray, on which stood our silver teapot, ewer, 
and sugar-basin ; and altogether the repast 
seemed inviting. 

'^ Around the festive board were seated 
three men and four women, exclusive of the 
members of our own modest establishment. 

^^ The cook presided over the tea-table 
department, whilst the housemaid was press- 
ing raspberry jam on the notice of a reluctant 
swain. 

" Into this group, I fell, so to speak, like 
a shell; but I did not explode, although 
the assembled company seemed as much 
frightened as if I had been composed of 
combustible materials. 

^^ At once they all rose to their legs 
whilst a little beast of a dog, which I 
always detested, from under shelter of the 



An Interrupted Soiree, 201 

•cook's chair, set up a series of the most 
frightful yelpings I ever heard. 

^^ ^ Would you be good enough to give me 
a glass of water ? ' I said to Catharine. ' I 
have rung seven times.' 

'^^Yes, sir; I will bring it up in a 
moment, sir,' answered Catharine, and 
rushed off to fetch it. 

^^ ' Thank you,' I said ; ^ but as I should 
be sorry to disturb so pleasant a party, I 
will wait and take it myself. I hope, sir,' I 
added, turning to the principal male figure 
in the foreground, ' everything is as you like 
it, and that you want fomothing ? ' 

^' ^ Thank ye,' he replied ; ' the beef is a 
:first-rate cut, and the beer topping.' 

'-'-'' I am delighted to hear it ' I was 

beginning, when the cook, whose former 
experiences had probably made her ac- 
quainted with all the ins and outs of such 
poor devices as mine, broke in with — 

^^ ' No, sir, you ain't delighted a bit, and 
it ain't no use a- trying a-gammoning of me,' 



202 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

— ^there was a suspicious-looking square 
bottle near her, wliicli had hitherto escaped 
my notice, but which connected with her 
thick utterance suggested gin — ^ I have lived 
all along with respectable families who knew 
what was what until now, and who would 
have scorned such poking and prying ways, 
such underminded things as for gentlemen, 
gentlemen indeed ! to come down spying out 
the nakedness of the land.' 

"^ My good friend,' I remonstrated, 4t 
seems to me that this land is certainly not 
barren.' 

^^ ^ Call yourself a gentleman indeed!' 
she repeated, ^ and grudging 'poor servants, 
as is up early and late a-working for your 
pleasure, the society of their friends once 
and away ! ' 

*' ^ You are quite welcome to the society 
of your friends,' I replied, ' and your friends 
are quite welcome to the poor refreshment 
my larder affords, but it will be for the last 
time in my house.' 



An Interrupted Soiree, 203 

'-^ ^ Yes, just hark at him, and he calls his- 
self a gentleman ! ' the woman shrieked out. 

*^ * You clever soul, when did you ever 
hear me make such an assertion ? ' I retorted. 
^ I have to work harder than any of you, 
and to pay a great deal more ; and the po- 
pular idea of a gentleman is some one who 
does nothing and walks about with his hands 
in his pockets. I dare say some of your 
friends have done both things ere now, and 
so are much more of gentlemen than I. 
However, I wish you all a very pleasant 
evening, and am sorry I interrupted its 
enjoyment.' 

*^ But she would not be appeased. Moved 
thereto partly by the knowledge that Fate, 
represented by myself, was walking towards 
her ; partly by the presence of her friends ; 
partly by reminiscences of my wife's cowardly 
conduct in presence of a real foe ; and greatly 
by the stimulant of — tea, shall we say ? — 
she recommenced. 



204 



CHAPTER XV. 

THE END OF THE SOmEE. 

^' ^ Calls hisself a gentleman ! ' said the 
cook. 

" ^ My good woman,' I said, ' in that re- 
spect, as I have before stated, you are quite 
mistaken.' 

*' ^ Good woman ! ' she repeated hysteri- 
cally. All this time that wretched dog was 
barking, and the company standing, and the 
tea — if they wanted any — cooling. ' Good 
woman ! ' 

" ' Is there another term which you think 
would suit better ? ' I inquired. 

^ ^ ' And he calls hisself a gentleman ! ' 



The End of the Soiree, 205 

she persisted. * You call yourself a master ? 
Why, the very dog barks at you. You 
who could not feed your family, but had to 
let your wife, sweet lady ! go and work her 
fingers to the bone. Master, indeed ! ' 

"^IS"©, you mistake,' was my reply, ^I 
am now your mistress, and do not mind the 
dog in the least. When you are quite dis- 
engaged, but not till then, I should like to 
have five minutes' talk with you. Good 
afternoon,' I added, speaking to the assem- 
bled company, who were all standing staring 
and gaping as a street crowd stares and 
gapes when a horse is down, or a man run 
over, or a pickpocket collared ; ^ and I wish 
you a pleasant evening.' 

'^ With which benevolent hope — so, at 
least, it seemed to me — I was leaving the 
room, when between me and the door inter- 
vened the cook. 

^^ She was not an agreeable sight at that 
moment to contemplate. The weather was 
warm, and she not cool. The sun inclined 



2o6 Frayik StJiclair's Wife, 

one to be thirsty, and she had drunk water 
and something else. At the best of times 
she had never seemed to me a desirable 
person ; but now she seemed something 
more undesirable still. 

^'Dressed in her best, she nevertheless 
looked a dowdy. Her cap was awry ; her 
l)rooch had come unfastened; her sleeves, 
for the purpose of convenience, had been 
turned back, leaving her large wrists with- 
out a particle of merciful shading. Her 
face was red, its expression angry. Well, 
even the life of a mistress of a household is 
not all couleur de rose. The dolce far niente 
of a woman's life had hitherto seemed very 
pleasant; but now I was, in addition, to 
have experience of it^ for titer in re, 

" ^ If you please, sir, just one word before 
you go ; I don't want no five minutes' talk 
with you, nor no two minutes neither, nor 
lialf a minute, if you come to that. And 
you don't hope we shall spend a pleasant 
evening; having, with your nasty, mean, 



The E7id of the Soiree. 207 

■spying, poking, underminded ways, made 
sure it should be quite the other thing. 
-Drawing-rooms is for gentlefolks, and kitch- 
ings is for poor creatures who has to earn 
their bread in the sweat of their brows; 
and when gentlefolks, as they call their- 
«elves, comes down into kitchings and de- 
means theirselves looking after candle-ends 
and cheeseparings, so to speak, it is time 
servants told masters to suit theirselves, 
because they do not intend to stay another 
iour under the same roof.' 

^' ^ You have said exactly what I intended 
saying to you, though I should scarcely 
have spoken before your friends. And now 
that we perfectly understand each other, 
perhaps you will give them their tea.' 

^^ ^ I shall give it, or I sha'n't give it, 
just as I like. Who are you that you should 
come a interfering when a acquaintance 
drops in promiscuous? Your dear lady 
would never so have demeaned herself. From 
iveek's end to week's end she never put her 



2o8 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

foot inside tKis here kitching; she never 
inquired after bare bones that dogs could 
not have got a toothful off ; she never went 
a poking after her tradespeople, nor a sus- 
pecting her faithful servants. She is a lady,, 
she is, that it were a pleasure to serve.' 

•^ ^ "Well,' I answered, 'I hope you will 
get just such another mistress,' and I made 
another step towards the door, hoping to 
end the controversy. 

" ' Ah ! that's another of your nasty 
sneers,' the half- tipsy wretch shrieked out. 
^ Catharine, have you not a word to say 
when you see your friend so put upon? 
Are you a-going to stay on in a house where 
things has come to such a pass ? or do you 
intend to speak up, and tell Mr. Francis 
Sinclair, Esquire, that you ain't a-going to 
put up with his arbitrary ways, since as- 
]iow — thank heaven so be ! — you beant his 
wife ?' 

•' ^ I certainly shall not stay in a place 
where there is no cook,' answered Catharine 
loftily and yet, as it struck me, uneasily. 



The End of the Soiree. 209 

"^Yery well,' I remarked; ^ come up- 
stairs wlien your friends are gone, and you 
shall have your wages.' 

'-'- ' And arrears,' suggested the cook, with 
an emphasis which filled me with unspeak- 
able apprehensions. 

'' ' Any arrears that may be due to you 
shall be paid after I haye spoken to Mrs. 
Sinclair,' I replied; and the way being 
more clear, I passed out of the kitchen, 
hearing as I went — 

^^'And won't Mrs. Sinclair like to be 
asked about the arrears — won't she just ? ' 

*^ That remark decided me. Straight up- 
stairs I went to the nursery, where Eliza- 
beth was trying to lull the cries of our latest 
blessing. 

"^Elizabeth,' I said, ^have you a 
mother ? ' 

^^ * No, sir, nor yet a father,' she answered 
briskly. ' I have only an aunt as goes out 
nussing and charing.' 

" ' Could she come here for a few days ? ' 

VOL. I. P 



2IO Frank Sinclair^ s Wife, 

^' ^ Here, sir — to this house ?' and Eliza- 
beth looked dubious. 

*' ^ Yes,' I said; ^ the cook and housemaid 
have given me warning, and we must have 
some one; and I thought if you had a 
mother, or aunt, or anybody ' 

'^ ' Oh, sir ! ' cried the girl, ' let me try. 
I am not up to much, but I could do more 
if I was let. I can make the fires, and boil 
the kettle, and get the breakfast; and I 
could get the early and late dinner — I know 
I could ; and, sir, there have been dreadful 
goings on here, and it will be a good day 
for us all when some people leave ; but don't 
ask me to bring aunt — I will do it all my- 
self till you are suited, if you will only let 
me.' 

'' ' Then you do not want to leave also ? ' 
I suggested. 

" ' Leave, sir ! I do not know where I 
should lay my head if you turned me out, 
for I would never — never go to my aunt. 
I would rather be dead — I would indeed.' 



The E7id of the Soiree, 211 

^' Slightly comforted — for, my knowledge 
of eyenyery plain cooking being limited, I felt 
relieyed to know breakfast and dinner could 
be prepared without my help — I descended 
to the drawing-room, where Catharine soon 
joined me. 

" During the interyal which had elapsed 
between my exit from the kitchen and her 
appearance up-stairs, she must haye taken 
thought to many things — notably that, al- 
though work in any form is objectionable, 
her work in our house was not excessiye \ 
that she was not debarred from occasional 
tender interyiews and pleasant strolls with 
the then loyer of her choice ; that our 
yisitors were not illiberal; that my wife 
gaye away her old-fashioned dresses, and 
new-fashioned ones too, instead of selling 
them ; and that, if I were a drawback to -^ 
the happiness of the Briant Yiew Terrace 
household, I was yet not more of a drawback 
than many another master she might chance 
to encounter. 

p 2 



212 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

^' Further, I suspect she thought to ad- 
vance her prospects, or in other words, to 
have her wages raised, for she began — 

^' ^ I have just come up, sir, to offer to 
stay till you can suit yourself. It would 
be hard for my mistress to return home 
and not find a servant here to do a hand's 
turn for her.' 

^^ ^ It is very kind of you,' I answered, 
' but I am suited.' 

^^ And when I said that the ^ superior 
young woman's ' face was a sight to behold. 

^^ ^ You do not wish us to leave to-night, 
sir, though, I suppose ? ' she remarked. 

** ^ If your friends have gone, so that you 
are both quite at liberty to attend to such 
small matters, I wish you and the cook to 
pack up your boxes, and be out of this house 
within one hour ; by that time I trust Mrs. 
Sinclair will have returned, and I can then 
ascertain what is owing to you.' 

^'^As for that,' Catharine declared, ^she 
could tell me as much about that as Mrs. 



The End of the Soiree. 213 

Sinclair. She had put it all down in a 
book.' 

" And the book, which being produced 
turned out to be ^ The Good Servant's In- 
structor,' proved conclusively enough to me 
that during the past year Catharine had 
received about six months' wages. 

^' Not uplifted by this discovery, I ven- 
tured to inquire if Catharine could inform 
me how the cook's pecuniary matters stood. 

^^ ' Yes, she had kept her account on the 
back of an old valentine.' 

^^ And having been favoured with a sight 
of this document, I walked out to the shop 
of our nearest tradesman in order to get 
change for a twenty- pound note. 

*' When I returned, the cook opened the 
door and accosted me with a series of sen- 
tences which I gathered to mean : ' Did I 
want to see their boxes packed ? Did I want 
to be sure they had not the plate — plate 
indeed ! — stowed away in their trunks ? 
Should I like to turn out their pockets? 



214 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

Did I intend to accuse her of robbery be- 
cause there was a dress Mrs. Sinclair had 
given her among her things? Would I 
come up into their bedroom and bring a 
policeman with me? — it might save the 
trouble of sending one after them the next 
day.' 

" ^My good woman,' I answered, ^ it is 
very kind of you to suggest all this ; but 
the only real want I have at the present 
moment is, that you lock your boxes with 
all speed, take your wages, and go.' 

'^^And about their wages; she should 
expect her month, and board-wages into the 
bargain.' 

^^ '- You shall have your wages till to-day,' 
I answered ; ^ and if I hear any more non- 
sense from you, I shall go for a policeman 
to see you off my premises.' 

^^ ^ Well, then, about a character.' 

" ^ You can refer any one you like to me,' 
I replied. ^ There can be no objection to 
that.' 



The End of the Soiree 215 

'^Apparently, in all her experience she 
had never heard of a bad character being 
given, for she retreated up-stairs seemingly- 
satisfied ; and about half an hour afterwards 
she and Catharine, and three of their friends 
who had waited, so they said, ^ to see them 
through it,' drove off in a cab, laden with 
luggage — which cab the beer-boy, providen- 
tially coming in the very nick of time, had 
brought for them from a neighbouring stand. 

^'•I feared the return of my beloved — • 
must I confess it ? — even though right as 
well as might was certainly on my side. I 
dreaded the domestic storm that I fancied 
must ensue when Bella discovered the de- 
cided step I had taken. 

^^But here again I proved wrong in my 
forebodings. 

^'When I told Arabella there were no 
servants, that there was no dinner, and but 
small prospect of supper, my darling only 
answered, with a smile of conscious superi- 
ority — 



2i6 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

'' ' "Well, dear, I suppose I can have a 
cup of tea; or if not, let us go out for a 
walk.' 

'^ Here was an example held up to me, 
and I am not ashamed to say I felt grateful 
for her clemency; but then — oh! forgive 
me, Bella — I could not quite forget.'' 



217 



CHAPTER XYI. 

THE PLEASURES OF HOUSEKEEPING. 

" Taking it as a whole, when a man becomes 
the mistress of a domestic establishment, he 
finds there are drawbacks to the pleasure of 
his position. 

^' Until I descended to the basement, and 
disturbed that pleasant little party, my life 
had not been totally unenviable ; but from 
the moment the cook drove off, waving her 
handkerchief at the house in drunken de- 
fiance, I have experienced a sense of defeat 
which it would be impossible to describe in 
words. 

'' Bella's amiability also did not, para- 



2l8 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

doxical as it may seem, render me more 
comfortable. Life in the City appeared to 
be going on charmingly with her, while life 
in Briant View Terrace was progressing 
anything but smoothly with me. It was, of 
course, easy for me to say mentally that the 
whole fault commenced with Bella ; but this 
proposition, though true, failed to console as 
it should have done, since I could not avoid 
acknowledging, after two days' experience 
of our 'help,' that economy may be bought 
at too high a price, and that even an occa- 
sional party in the kitchen, and a liberal use 
of intoxicating liquors, may be more con- 
ducive to comfort than the most rigid virtue, 
if incompetent to cook a chop. 

" The next morning, after the evacuation 
of the premises by cook and housemaid, the 
young nurse contrived to burn the toast, to 
boil the eggs hard as bullets, and to bring 
up the tea tasting very strongly of smoke. 
I sat wretched, remembering Bella's fast of 
the previous night ; and she made me more 



The Pleasures of Housekeeping, 219 

wretched by saying it did not matter in the 
least, and that the girl would do better in 
time. 

'''- If she had only been so amiable with 
me in the days departed ! I considered. 
But then again, I considered, I had not been 
so amiable as she ; I remembered swearing 
at our then Catharine, banging the hall door 
after me, and walking forth to calm my 
temper, when a repast was not to be had ; 
and now, under worse circumstances, Bella 
only smiled, and said, ^!N'ever mind, dear,' 
and so drove me to the verge of distraction. 

^^Had I told her formerly ^not to mind,' 
she would have obeyed me literally. 

^^ The girl certainly did her best — but 
then that best was very bad indeed; and 
get a suitable servant, or rather pair of 
servants, I could not. IN'aturally, respect- 
able women objected to me as a mistress, 
and those who might have been willing to 
overlook that drawback did not strike me as 
being desirable servants. 



220 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

^^I asked the tradespeople, I went to 
registry offices. I saw people, and places, 
and phases of character I had never before 
conceived had an existence. I advertised, 
I answered advertisements, all in vain. 
Two or three of our neighbours, wanting, I 
presume, to get rid of their own servants, 
kindly sent them in to me, and half Eliza- 
beth's time was taken up in answering the 
door, and replying to the questions of would- 
be candidates, who looked contemptuously 
at her face and hands, which were, I regret 
to say, in a chronic state of black lead and 
perspiration 

"Were it not for exposing my relations 
with Bella, I should write to Mrs. St. Clair, 
and request her to find me a staid and 
respectable person. Under the circum- 
stances, however, this is impossible; I 
cannot let it be known at Mulford that 
Bella and I have changed sexes — that she 
is now a man, and I a woman ; and that we 
have changed natures as well, since she is 



The Pleasures of Housekeeping, 221 

now amiability itself, and I — well, the less 
I say about my own feelings and temper the 
better. 

" But for very pride I should ask Bella to 
find me one servant, at all events ; and 
seeing my perplexity, I think she might 
offer her assistance in the matter. How- 
ever, she does not, and I am at length 
driven to accept the services of a ^ professed' 
cook, who charges for her services ten and 
sixpence a week, with beer ad lihitum^ and 
five meals a day. 

'' When I observe that this worthy woman 
sleeps at home, and is supposed to have 
breakfasted before she comes in the morning, 
and to sup after she leaves at night, it will 
be understood that her appetite is fairly 
good. 

^'Let me not be ungrateful, however, to 
Mrs. Eudge — that is her name. Never 
before have the children rejoiced in such 
puddings, tarts, and sweetmeats — never 
before have I sat down to dinners so admir- 



222 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

ably cooked, at so moderate an expense. 
It may be — indeed, I know it is, that Mrs. 
Eudge annexes small articles from our 
larder, but tben she takes very good care 
that no other person has the chance of doing 
so. 

^'- Farther, between her and the trades- 
people there wages a war which, I believe, 
no laying down of arms on either side could 
permanently end. 

" ITot an article that comes to the house 
pleases her. The mutton is always too fat 
or too lean, the sirloins have not sufficient 
of the under-cut, the fowls are ^ poor things 
— just like eating money,' the fruit is half 
rotten, the butter rank, the milk short 
measure, and thin even beyond the wont of 
London milk, the vegetables are stale, and 
the oilman's goods nothing but trash. 

^^ So at least I hear Mrs. Eudge stating at 
the side gate — though I am bound to add, 
none of the articles are beneath the notice of 
that lady when she wishes to carry them 



The Pleastcres of Housekeeping, 22^ 

home. The farce she makes of asking my 
permission before she makes up her little 
private bundle is really admirable. 

"Up-stairs she comes with a piece of 
plum-tart, or possibly the fag-end of a 
fowl on an immense dish, and asks whether, 
as the item is too small to serve up again for 
the mid-day dinner, she may take it home 
for Eudge. 

'' Eudge, being in delicate health, likes, 
so his wife says, to ^pick a bit' — meaning 
thereby that he is partial to scraps of bread- 
pudding, cupfuls of soup, the tails of soles, 
cold vegetables, and such like. 

" Of course I well understand that, under 
cover of these gifts, Mrs. Eudge takes home 
other ai-ticles which are not gifts ; but my 
courage has so evaporated, that were I to de- 
tect her making away with the appetising 
morsel I had intended for my adored one's 
dinner, I should only go out and secure 
another morsel equally inviting. 

" The woman can cook ; and, after all, one 



2 24 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 



virtue in a woman covers a multitude of 
sins. My Eella declares such, cutlets never 
were served, and I must say I think Bella 
understands such things. For myself I like 
steaks, and Mrs. Eudge sends them up to 
perfection. 

'-'- But there are drawbacks. For example, 
Mrs. Eudge likes to take her orders direct, 
and she generally takes them in a bonnet. 
Before me now I see the woman, elderly, 
hungry-looking, clad in black, severe, un- 
suggestive of cleanliness, unappetising. 
Morning after morning she applies her 
knuckles to the breakfast-room door, and 
says when she enters — 

** ^ About dinner, sir V 

^^ On my word, I have scarcely got over 
the pang of parting from Arabella before 
Mrs. Eudge appears. And, unaccustomed 
as I am to catering for a family, the ordeal, 
especially in warm weather, proves hard. 

*^ Before I became the mistress of a house- 
hold, I could have sworn there were fifty 



The Pleasures of Housekeepmg. 11^ 

kinds of meat. Now I find them narrowed 
to mutton and beef, poultry, game, and fish. 
Variety with these materials is out of the 
question. After all, the feminine mind may, 
in Great Britain, have to contend with diffi- 
culties. Why cannot we cure elephant 
hams, for instance ? Perhaps if we did we 
should not like them. I fancy Mrs. Eudge 
would. 

^^ I am getting dreadfully weary of the 
life : there is no use in trying to make the 
best of it. If Bella do not give in, I must 
leave London for a time. The absurdity of 
the whole affair would be ludicrous, if the 
sadness were not still greater. 

"Is Bella mad, or am I? Last night 
I tried to get her to confess she would like 
to remain at home for one day, but she 
replied with such an air of superiority, that 
I shall not venture on a similar question 
again. I wonder how the business really is 
going. McLean no doubt really manages 
it, letting her believe she is holding the 

VOL. I. Q 



226 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

reins ; but if this be so, she will never give 
in. She will attribute the comparative ease 
in money matters, that I have been strug- 
gling for years to compass, to her own 
superior cleverness, and there is no knowing 
when she will find out her error. "What 
ought I to do ? Having made the mistake 
of beginning wrongly, how am I ever to 
rectify it ? 

^^ She will not listen to reason, and I can 
not apply force. Perhaps my better plan 
would be to engage a thoroughly experienced 
housekeeper, stop this business craze, and 
let Bella take her way, while I take mine. 
But then she might object to the house- 
keeper — indeed I am sure she would. 

*' Will no one tell me what I ought to do ? 
Short of emigrating or cutting my throat, I 
think I would do anything to end this diffi- 
culty. If it were not for the children, I 
might know to act. There, I will write no 
more to-day. 

" Eemembering all I hoped, all I believed. 



The Pleasures of Housekeeping, 227 

all the fond, foolish dreams I hoped, be- 
lieved, and dreamed during my courtship, I 
cannot help tears blinding me. 

'^I look at the last sentence, which I 
wrote three days ago, and hesitate whether 
I shall run my pen through it, or whether I 
shall let it remain, so that if Eella ever read 
this record she may understand how she has 
grieved and wounded me. I do not think 
she can understand that part of the affair at 
all, or surely she would not so gratuitously 
have hurt any one's feelings. Better let the 
passage stand, perhaps. 

''Concerning money matters I am grow- 
ing anxious. Last night, for the first time 
Bella looked thoughtful and troubled. She 
ate little dinner, she fell into reverie, and 
seemed, when I spoke to her, to have to 
bring her mind back from a distance before 
she answered. 

'^ Can it be that she has let anything go 
wrong with Allington ? Scarcely, I fancy. 

Q 2 



228 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

McLean knew the importance of that, and 
besides, some time has elapsed since the day 
his payment was due, and I should have 
been certain to hear of it ere now. I asked 
her if she were ill, and she said ^ No.' I 
asked her if there were anything troubling 
her, and she said ^ No,' again. I asked her 
if she were tired, and she said ^ A little ;' 
that the day had been intensely warm, and 
the office close. I asked her if she did not 
think she had better remain at home this 
morning, for a few hours at all events, and 
she said ^ Decidedly not.' 

*^ There is something the matter, I am 
confident, and of course I shall soon have to 
know what it is. Meantime I have my own 
especial cause of anxiety. Susie is certainly 
ill. I cannot make out what ails the child, 
She seems ^peeky,' and languid, and ner- 
vous. She is never happy, except when I 
have her in my arms. The doctors say she 
ought to go out of town ; and I must talk to 
Eella about this to-night. If anything went 
wrong with her I should break my heart. 



The Pleasures of Housekeeping, 229 



^'Mrs. Eiidge declares the child's mother 
ought to be at home with her; but from 
previous observation, unless Bella be greatly 
changed, if she were at home she would not 
spend much of her time with the children. 

" I have spoken to Bella, and she says 
that if I want to go out of town I had better 
do so ; that it is impossible for her to go ; 
that there is not much the matter with 
Susie ; that I have indulged her too freely 
in cakes and fruit ; that Dr. Hirst is an old 
woman; that Susie will be well enough 
if no fuss be made over her; and that no 
doubt the children are not looked after 
properly — indeed, how could I expect it, 
with Elizabeth doing the housework, and no 
one else in the shape of a servant, except an 
old charwoman ? 

'* Clearly my beloved was in a very 
irritable frame of mind. I wonder what is 
the matter. I am quite as certain some- 
thing has gone very wrong at the office, as I 



230 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

am that Susie is in a very precarious state 
of health. I hear her crossing the hall while 
I write, and in another moment she will be 
beside my chair, saying piteously, 'Take 
me up, papa.' " 



231 



CHAPTER XYII. 

FROM IVIES. SINCLAIR. 

" My Dearest, — I am in such dreadful 
trouble, and where can I go for help save 
to you? In whom can I confide except 
in you ? This business must have been 
wretchedly conducted. How it has been 
kept on for so long a time I cannot ima- 
gine. Everything is just from hand to 
mouth. Frank does not seem to me to have 
a thousand pounds in any place. If he have, 
it is certainly not at his bank, for — would 
you believe it? — there was not enough there 
to meet eleven hundred pounds, which had 
to be paid on the fifth. The clerk I men- 



232 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

tioned in my last letter said I ought not to 
have parted with that two hundred and 
£% pounds ; but only fancy, dear, two hun- 
dred and fifty pounds being of any object in 
a business I 

" I made some such remark to Mr. McLean, 
and he declared he was afraid I should find 
it of very great importance; that he felt 
confident not merely all trade connection 
would cease with Mr. Allington — that is the 
name of the gentleman — but that we should 
find him ^ very nasty ' (I repeat his expres- 
sion) unless the affair was arranged. 

^^ I asked him how the affair could be 
arranged, and he said, only by paying the 
money, and suggested I should see if some 
of Frank's business friends could not help 
me. I should tell you he had mentioned 
this before the fifth, but I rejected the 
proposition because, as I assured him, Mr. 
Sinclair would not like me to borrow from 
strangers. 

^^ To this he answered, ' That Mr. Sinclair 



From Mrs. Sinclair. 233 

would like still less to have irregularities in 
his payments, and that had he been fit to 
attend to business at all, the thing would not 
have happened.' 

^^You cannot think how miserable it 
makes it for me, the way in which every one 
will insist that Frank is ill. When I say he 
is well, they reply, with a sort of incredulous 
smile, that they are glad to hear it — 
delighted. 

'-'- 1 spoke to Mr. McLean about this the 
other day, as I heard him tell a gentleman 
he was afraid Mr. Sinclair was no better, 
and asked him what he imagined was the 
matter. After a good deal of hesitation, he 
answered that he supposed Mr. Sinclair's 
head was a little affected. 

^'My dear, depend upon it, he thinks 
Frank has softening of the brain. 

" I have talked a good deal to this person 
about the business. He seems devoted to 
his employer ; very sorry for me ; though 
he mistakes the whole position, and I have 



234 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

thought it best not to enlighten him, as 
there is no use in telling people everything. 
He is clever, too, and has been with Frank 
for years. The sum of what he says is 
this — 

"For ages Frank has been 'paying off' 
that dreadful Mr. Varham — with whom, 
as I told you, he was once in partner- 
ship — and it has clearly left him almost 
penniless. The business seems to be car- 
ried on with credit; I mean, nothing 
appears to be paid for at the time. People 
sell things to Frank, and do what Mr. 
McLean calls ' draw on him ; ' then Frank 
sells these things to other people, and 
'draws' on them. It appears to me to be 
altogether a muddle, and of course I cannot 
put it right all at once. However, dear, not 
to tease you with these details, we have 
now got enough money to pay this eleven 
hundred pounds except one hundred and 
sixty, and I want you, you rich thing, to 
lend it to me. Mr. McLean says we shall 



From Mrs, Sinclair, 235 

be having money shortly. I asked him why 
we could not wait for ' shortly ; ' but he 
says if we do unpleasant consequences may 
follow. So, love, I write to you in all con- 
fidence. 
^ ^^ Most affectionately, 

A. Sinclair. 
" Mr. Allington has just been here. My 
dear, such a man ! But I will tell you 
everything to-morrow." 

But apparently, on second thoughts, Mrs. 
Sinclair could not wait for the morrow, 
since that same night she wrote from Briant 
Yiew Terrace the following epistle : — 

" I cannot rest, dear, without writing to 
you once more. Frank seems ill at ease, 
and, God knows, so am I. 

'^ What with anxieties in the City and 
anxieties at home, my life is not worth 
having. There are no servants here. Frank, 
indeed, has procured a woman able to cook 



236 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

very well; but, beyond this, we are dependent 
on Elizabeth, the children's nurse. And 
Susie is ill, or at least Frank says so, and 
the doctor says so, and declares she ought to 
go out of town ; and amongst all my troubles 
I believe I shall go mad. 

^^ In a postscript to my letter of to-day, 
I told you Mr. Allington had been. Talk 
about men, he was a brute — simply, purely 
a brute ! 

^^ He came into the outer office — I heard 
him — and asked to see Mr. Sinclair. 

^' ^Mr. Sinclair,' Mr. McLean answered, 
^ was not at the office.' 

''' ' "Why was he not at his office !' 

'' ^ He is ill,' Mr. McLean replied; and I 
declare to you, my love, I blessed him in my 
heart for that answer. What would he have 
said had he known Frank only remained at 
home because he felt that he could manage 
his business no longer ? Poor Frank ! 

'''mi What ails him ? ' 

'' ' Something the matter with his head.' 



From Mrs, Sinclair. 237 

^^ as he mad?' 

^'^ don't know, sir.' 

*' ' And who is taking charge ? ' 

'-'- ' Mrs. Sinclair.' 

'-'- ' Why isn't she with her husband ? ' 

^' '1 hope he is not so bad as that ? ' 

'^ ' Does she know anything of the busi- 
ness ? — but I suppose she don't.' 

" • I do not think she knows much,' 
answered Mr. McLean. 

^^ ^ Mr. Allington,' I said, from the door of 
my oflfice at this juncture, ' perhaps you will 
kindly walk this way.' 

'' I intended to treat him a little loftily, 
but it was of no use. The horrid creature 
kept on his hat, and after saying, ^ Good 
afternoon, ma'am,' plunged both hands 
into the depths of his pockets, and com- 
menced — 

'^ ' Sorry to hear about Mr. Sinclair. Bad 
job, ma'am ! ' 

^* ' Yes,' I answered, wondering what he 
would think could he see Frank at that 



238 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

moment enjoying himself at home with the 
children, as I know he does, 

" ' I assure you, ma'am, I find it disagree- 
able to haye to speak to a lady on such 
matters; but still, you know, business is 
business, and money is money. Now, about 
that eleven hundred pounds ? ' 

" ' I have got it all,' I gasped, ^ except 
about one hundred and sixty pounds, and 
that I expect to have very soon.' 

^' ^ How soon ? ' he asked. 

*' ' I have written to ask a Mend for it 
to-day, and I shall have it, if she be at home, 
by return of post.' 

" * And if she.be not at home ? ' 

" ^ But I have every reason to suppose 
she is.' 

*' ^ What reason, if I may inquire ? ' 

'^ ' I had a note from her the day before 
yesterday,' and then, seeing he did not be- 
lieve me — the horrid wretch — I took your 
dear three lines out of my pocket and placed 
them in his large^ fat hand (forgive the pro- 



From Mrs. Sinclair, 239 

fanation, but it seemed necessary. I never 
thought I should have to do with people who 
doubted my word^ and I do think Frank 
sometimes must have been tried). 

^'He read your loving words out loud, 
holding the paper at arm's-length, con- 
templating it through a great pair of spec- 
tacles that he placed leisurely on his horrid 
nose. 

*' ' That is the lady, then ? ' he said, when 
having finished, he gave me your sweet note 
back again, ' from whom you are to have the 
money ? ' 

^' I answered, ' Yes, it was.' 

'-'- ' Then, ma'am,' he remarked, ^ I will go 
round to the firm who hold your husband's 
bill, to ask them to take no steps till to- 
morrow afternoon. I think they will do this 
for me ; and I hope you will get the money, 
and I am sorry to see a lady so situated.' 
Having given utterance to which remark, he 
held out a hand that reminded me of an 
elephant's foot, and took, to my intense 



240 Fraiik Sinclair's Wife, 

relief, his large, ungainly person out of the 
office. 

^' When he went out Mr. McLean came 
in. Eeally I like that man, he is so re- 
spectful, and yet so sympathising. He 
wanted to know the result of the inter- 
view, and so I told him everything — when 
I hoped to get the money, and from 
whom. 

^^ He looked very grave, and asked if he 
should not go round to Mr. Yarham ; 
^Because,' he said ^the matter is now be- 
coming serious, and if we cannot pay the 
amount I am afraid of the consequences.' 

•^ 'What consequences ?' I inquired. 

^' ' Why, ma'am,' he said, '- they could 
take Mr. Sinclair now if they liked. It is 
evident they are only holding back because 
they are sorry for you and for Mr. Sinclair's 
illness.' 

'' ' They !— who are they I ' 

" ' Mr. Allington and his firm. He is the 
London partner of a great house in IS'otting- 
ham.' 



From Mrs, Sinclair, 241 

" ^ What do you mean -by ^^ take " Mr. 
Sinclair ? ' I asked. 

" For a moment lie hesitated, then he said, 
* Lock him up.' 

^^ ^ Lock him up ! Where ? ' My dear 
I was so confused, I mixed up Bedlam and 
all sorts of places. 

" ' In prison,' was the reply. 

'^ * In prison ? ' I almost shrieked. 'What 
has he done ? ' 

" ' Failed to meet his engagements ; in 
other words, failed to meet that accept- 
ance.' 

'^ Dearest, conceive of it ! And Frank 
has let such a risk be run ! and these are 
men's laws against men ! Can we wonder, 
therefore, at their conduct to women ? 

" I shall go to bed to-night and dream of 
poor Frank lying on straw, and having 
chains on his feet and hands. Write, dear- 
est, and relieve the frantic anxiety of 
'^ Your devoted Friend, 

'^ A. SiXCLAIR. 
VOL. I. E 



242 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

" Only fancy, my dear, if they even 
imagined Frank had nothing the matter with 
him, save his extraordinary ideas ! Poor 
Frank ! Eeally it is all very pitiable, and 
he has not a notion of it. I keep the whole 
trouble locked away. Would he do so much ? 
— or any man ? Poor Frank ? " 

It was quite as fortunate for '^ poor Frank," 
in those days, that he had not the remotest 
idea of the extent of his wife's consideration. 
Latterly he had not slept very well ; but 
could he have formed an idea of the way 
business had been retrograding and disagree- 
able affairs progressing, in the City, he 
might not have slept at all. 



243 



CHAPTEE XYIII. 

ME. MCLEAN TO ME. VARHAM. 

Happily it is giyen to women to get dread- 
fully frightened, but still never perfectly 
to understand — that is to say, a woman 
takes alarm rapidly, but she is fortunate in 
so far as she never grasps the whole of a 
trouble at a first glance. 

It is customary to talk of a woman's 
imagination as vivid ; but if so, it is vivid 
only to a limited extent. 

If the kitchen chimney be on fire, she 
may conjure up visions of flame to the 
seventh heaven; but if flames be blazing 
to the seventh heaven, she fails to realise 

E 2 



244 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

blackened walls, roofless homestead and the 
silence of despair. 

For my own part, I do not believe the 
woman ever lived whose imagination en- 
abled her thoroughly to realise the meaning, 
say, of the single word ^^ruin;" and I can 
scarcely credit that even the virtues of an 
Act of Parliament will assist her to the 
extent indicated. 

The feminine mind can picture things in a 
dreadful state of excitement, but it fails to 
picture them in the state which follows that 
excitement. Paris during the siege, with 
shells bursting and cannon roaring, it was not 
impossible for a woman's imagination to con- 
ceive ; but beautiful Paris desolated ; gay 
Paris silent ; smiling Paris sitting weeping 
amid her own ruins : these things are to her 
facts spoken as parables. 

]^o doubt, in the good time coming, 
women shall have become so like men that 
they will be able at once to compass the 
meaning of ^^ bankruptcy," ^^ ruin/' "re- 



Mr, McLean to Mr, Varha7n. 245 

treiiclinient," ^'retirement," as well as nien 
can now ; but then they will not be women, 
only a smaller sort of man ! 

Abstract questions of this kind, however, 
had no place in Prank Sinclair's meditations. 

He was concerned with himself for him- 
self — himself, of course, including wife, chil- 
dren, reputation. On the one side was 
possible ruin, on the other the memory of 
that wretched period of his life when no- 
thing he could do was right, and nothing 
Eella could do was wrong. 

If he gave in now, if he went to his office 
and resumed the reins of government, domes- 
tic matters would, he knew, drift back to 
their former position ; whilst, on the other 
hand, if he did not take some decisive step 
— if he stayed at home with the children, 
and continued to spend his days in idleness, 
all the labour of years would, he knew, be 
lost ; and even supposing bankruptcy were 
averted, the uphill work he once thought 
over would have to be continued, perhaps, 
to the end of life. 



246 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

"Well, let it, he decided. Better that — 
better anything than a discontented wife — 
a wretched home. Better even to procure a 
situation, than for Bella and him to lead the 
existence which once obtained in Briant 
Yiew Terrace. Of two evils he chose the 
evil he considered least, never taking into 
consideration the fact that all Bella really 
wanted was a tighter hand and less gentle 
tenderness than he had hitherto employed. 

But Frank Sinclair could not be ungentle ; 
he could not return taunt for taunt — re- 
proach his wife with having wasted hard- 
earned money ; for having learned nothing 
from the severely economical training of her 
youth, save how — when opportunity offered 
— to spend lavishly and uselessly in her 
husband's home. 

It was not in Frank to do any one of these 
things. He could only, having commenced 
a negative sort of battle, fight it silently 
out, opposing to force that kind of passive 
resistance which is more annoying and more 



Mr. McLean to Mr. Varham, 247 

difficult to deal -with than any active war- 
fare. 

During the whole combat, however — that 
is, after the first couple of days — he under- 
stood perfectly well he was playing with 
edged tools, which could, and very possibly 
would, injure him most seriously. 

But then, there are cancers so terrible 
that the patient ceases to dread the surgeon's 
knife ; and there are family troubles which 
eventually become so intolerable that a 
man feels, even if the sky fall in the at- 
tempt, it were better to make a change. 

And all the while things were getting 
worse in the City, as the following letter 
from Mr. McLean to Mr. Yarham will ex- 
plain. Mr. McLean had been clerk in the 
office when Yarham and Sinclair were 
partners. He was now manager in Frank's 
office, having elected to cast in his lot with 
Mr. Sinclair. 

For him, however, Mr. Yarham had al- 
ways entertained the highest respect, and 



248 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

therefore, though he was grieved, he did not 
feel surprised when he opened Mr. McLean's 
letter, and read : — 



Lane, London, Sept. 30th, 18- 



" Deab Sir, — Knowing the friendship you 
have always entertained for my employer, I 
went round last evening to your oflB.ce, 
hoping to see you concerning some private 
matters of Mr. Sinclair's. Hearing you 
were out of town, and likely to be so for 
some time, I took the liberty of asking 
Hudson for your address, and trust you will 
excuse my writing this letter. 

^'I am sorry to say Mr. Sinclair has not 
been able to come to business for a long 
time past. I am still more sorry to say 
Mrs. Sinclair has been able. 

^^ I do not intend by the foregoing remark 
the slightest disrespect to that lady; but 
affairs have, in consequence of her interfer- 
ence, got into terrible confusion, and it is on 
this account I venture to ask your advice 
and — assistance. 



Mr. McLean to Mr. Varhain. 249 

" As you are aware, on the fifth of each 
month we have been in the habit of making 
regular payments to Mr. Allington, and 
hitherto everything has given way to that. 
These payments one month under another 
were regarded as equivalent to cash, and the 
discount was in itself, a handsome income. 

" Mrs. Sinclair, being unacquainted with 
these business details, and paying no 
attention to me when I ventured to explain 
them, paid away a sum of money to a per- 
son who has set up a claim against Mr. 
Sinclaii', wi'ong in every particular ; and the 
consequence is, Allington's last draft is still 
unsettled. 

*^ I have written to Mr. Sinclair on the 
subject, but he returned my letters unopen- 
ed, saying, ' he left everything to Mrs. 
Sinclair ; ' and when I called, he repeated 
what he said at the beginning of his illness, 
namely, that for reasons which he could not 
explain, he had decided to remain at home, 
and leave the whole management of his 
business to Mrs. Sinclair. 



250 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

" He is much changed since I last saw 
him, and seems irritable and despondent. 
It is pitiable to witness poor Mrs. Sinclair's 
distress. She cries half the day, I think, 
and literally trembles when she hears Mr. 
Allington's voice. Not being accustomed to 
business or business ways, she thinks he 
is treating her cruelly; but he has been, 
I assure you, much more patient and lenient 
than I expected. 

^' He offered to take the amount lying at 
the bank, and let the balance stand over to 
next month ; but to do this it was necessary 
to get a cheque from Mr. Sinclair, and this 
Mrs. Sinclair said she could not do. 

^^ ^ Is he really so bad as that ? ' Mr. 
AUington asked; and then Mrs. Sinclair 
covered her face, and sobbed like a child. 

^^ '• Bless my soul ! ' he went on, ^ you 
had better apply for some power to act for 
him. Things will go to wreck and ruin 
if you let them drift like this. You have 
got your children as well as his creditors to 



Mr. McLean to Mr. Varham. 251 

consider. Have you no male relation whom 
you can consult ? ' 

^^ But she only shook her head in reply. 

^' '- That lady did not send you the money 
then ? ' he asked. 

^^ ^ !N"o, she could not spare it ; and I have 
written to two or three other friends, but no 
one seems to have any money.' 

'* ^ And the worst of it is, Mr. Allington,' 
I said at this juncture, ' that our trade is 
totally at a standstill. Of course, till this 
matter is settled we cannot order any more 
goods from you ; and in Mr. Sinclair's state 
of health, it is impossible for transactions to 
be opened with any other house. Our pay- 
ments, beyond what is required for current 
expenses, do not come in till the twenty- 
ninth.' 

" ' Can you certainly pay the amount 
then ? ' he asked. 

^^I said, yes, we could ; and to my great 
relief, he promised to wait till the thirtieth, 
and then re-apply. 



252 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

^^ Knowing what lie is, I must say I felt 
agreeably surprised at his leniency; but his 
manner annoys Mrs. Sinclair greatly, and 
«he is besides sadly vexed at the way in 
which her friends hold aloof. I believe she 
thought she had nothing to do but ask and 
have, and not only has no one helped, but 
no one has even come to see her. 

'^If I could induce her to remain at 
home, I think I might pull things round 
even now, although, with no business doing, 
the prospect is not bright. I wish you 
would advise me as to the best course to 
pursue. If I were able to open an account 
with some other house on equally advantage- 
ous terms, I should not feel afraid ; but so 
long as Mrs. Sinclair insists on coming to 
the office that is hopeless, since people at 
once inquire why she is here, and so of 
course hear of Mr. Sinclair's illness. As it 
is, creditors are pressing on all sides, and I 
have been compelled to pay accounts which 
really are scarcely due, in order to avoid pro- 



Mr, McLean to Mr. Varham. 253 

ceedings ; so that when Allington is paid lii& 
last draft, I shall be even less prepared 
than the last time for that coming due on 
the fifth of October. 

^^I trust you will pardon the liberty I 
have taken in troubling you with all these 
details, but I felt I could not stand by and 
see a good business going to the dogs, if 
any act of mine could avert it. 
'' Hoping soon to hear from you, 
'' I am, dear Sir, 

^^ Yours respectfully, 

'' J. S. McLean." 

From town to town this letter, which was 
posted just three days too late to reach Mr. 
Yarham at the address furnished by his 
manager, followed that gentleman ; and 
when at length he received it, he was in 
Paris, where he intended to remain for 
a week before returning to England, 
after a prolonged and profitable business 
journey. 



2^4 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

When he had read Mr. McLean's com- 
munication, however, twice over — the first 
time hurriedly, the second slowly and care- 
fully — he asked for his bill, packed his port- 
manteau, and started for London within an 
hour. 



255 



CHAPTER XIX. 

SANE OR IXSAXE ? 

^^PooE Sinclair!" thought Mr. Yarham ; 
^4t is that discontented cat who has driven 
him out of his mind. And they have a 
tribe of children, too, I believe. Well, 
there is something to be said on each 
side of a question. Here have I often 
murmured because I was left so soon a 
widower, with never a son to come after me, 
never a daughter to grow up and fill 
her mother's place; but surely that is 
better than to marry as Sinclair did, and 
bring a lot of poor helpless creatures into 
the world, and then to go mad and leave 



256 Frank Sinclair'^s Wife. 

them to shift for themselyes as best they 
can. 

^^ It is horrid to think of. And what a 
pleasant, cheerful, happy fellow Frank was 
once, to be sure — in the days when we were 
careless bachelors together ! After all, there 
are no friendships like those formed in youth. 
I am sorry I ever let any woman come be- 
tween us. He has had a struggle, and it 
has not been all profit to me." 

And so his thoughts ran on during the 
whole of that return journey. Arriyed in 
London, he went straight to Frank's office, 
even before calling at his own. 

There, perched on a high stool, sat 
McLean disconsolate, his elbows resting 
on the desk, and his chin supported by 
his hands, looking the very picture of 
despair. 

When Mr. Yarham entered he got down 
from his stool, and returned that gentlemen's 
greeting sadly. 

'-'- 1 did not receive your letter till yester- 



Sane or Insane? 257 

day," began Mr. Yarham. ^' I had left 
Guernsey when it arrived there. Now, 
what can I do to help you ? " 

*^ I do not think you can do anything, sir, 
unless it be to tell me whether I ought to 
lock up the o£B.ce and go away." 

"Why, what has happened? Is Mr. 
Sinclair worse?" 

^^ It appears there never was anything 
the matter with him — at least, so Allington 
says." 

" Then why is he not here ? " 

'^ He is not here now for a very sufficient 
reason, because he is in Whitecross Street 
Prison, and likely, so far as I can hear, to 
remain there. Allington thinks he has only 
been shamming illness ; but I feel sure he 
must be hopelessly mad. I have had a 
letter from him, in which he declares that all 
questions must be referred to Mrs. Sinclair, 
and he further states that he does not at all 
dislike being in Whitecross Street. And 
Mrs. Sinclair, when I went up there last 

VOL. I. s 



258 Frank Siiiclairh Wife, 

niglit, ^as in hysterics ; and one of the 
children, it seems, is dying ; and the land- 
lord, hearing of Mr. Sinclair's arrest, has 
put in a distress for the rent ; and there is 
not a soul who can answer a question, or 
give the slightest information on any subject, 
except a lady — Mrs. Sinclair's sister, I 
think — for whom Mr. Sinclair sent before 
he left home. 

^^ There, I cannot understand it. I can- 
not make head or tail of the business. It is 
beyond flesh and blood to stay here and be 
bullied by Allington, who comes in two or 
three times a-day to say we are all swin- 
dlers together, and that he is not sure 
he shall not prosecute us criminally for 
conspiracy. A man from whom I ordered 
some goods, a few days before this hap- 
pened, is simply furious. If I had enough 
money I would leave the country — that I 
would." 

^' Bless my heart ! " exclaimed Mr. 
Yarham, who had not heard one word 



SaTie or Insane? 259 

of the latter part of McLean's harangue. 
"To think it ever should have come 
to this! and with Sinclaii% too. of all 
men ! " 



8 2 



26o 



CHAPTEK XX. 
ME. sixclaik's diaey eesoied. 

'^ Vlliitecross Street^ Oct, IS fh. — I am 
very glad I commenced to keep a diary. It 
seemed a foolish thing to attempt at first ; 
but it has not only wiled away, many an 
anxious quarter of an hour at home, but 
suggested to me the idea of taking to 
literatui'e as a profession. 

"To be sure it is rather late in life for 
me to turn author, but everything must have 
a beginning; and, as it seems extremely 
probable I shall have to remain here for the re- 
mainder of my natural life, I may as well try to 
earn a few pounds for my family as not. 
My family — oh I Susie, my little daughter, 



Mr. Sinclairh Diary Resumed, 261 

I wonder how you are this morning. How 
the hours lengthen out while I am waiting 
for Patty's notes ! What a fool I have been 
— what an obstinate, selfish, wicked idiot ! 
What did it matter whether my home were 
comfortable or the reverse, what did it 
signify whether Bella spent much money or 
little, I should have stuck to my post and 
earned money, I should have borne everything 
she liked to thrust upon me, rather than 
have courted ruin and poverty in this way. 

^^ For my courtship of misfortune, which 
I merely intended should be a passing 
flirtation, has only proved too successful. 
Euin and I have entered the matrimonial 
estate together. She has grasped my hand 
with a clutch strong and cruel as death, and 
taken me and my fortunes for better for 
worse. Further, she has agreed to provide 
for me, and this is the lordly mansion I and 
my grim bride inhabit. I cannot realise it 
all yet. I cannot understand how it has 
come about. Let me read McLean's letter 



262 Frank Sinclair'' s Wife. 

once again. I believe I was mad when it 
arrived, lor I wrote some ridiculous reply, 
that I now feel very much ashamed of having 
penned. I must ask him to come here and 
explain how matters stand. I ought also to 
see a solicitor. What am I to say to any 
sensible man, however, on the subject? 
How can I ever confess the length and 
breadth and depth of my stupid folly ? Not 
even to Patty could I tell how criminally 
weak I have been. 

'^ The provocation appears so slight, the 
insanity so incredible ; but yet, small 
though the drop of water may have been, 
it had gone on dripping for so long a time 
that it had worn into my very brain. And 
now Bella does not write to me. Patty 
says she is ill, but still she is not confined 
to her room. I told Patty she must neither 
come here again nor allow Bella to come, 
nevertheless I expected a letter. 

^^ Were it not for Patty, I should not 
know whether Susie were alive or dead. 



Mr. Sinclair^ Diary Resumed. 263 

*^ How did it all happen ? I must try to 
make sense out of what seems to me little 
more real than a dream. For days and days 
I had noticed Bella was desponding, but as 
she resolutely refused to take me into her 
confidence, I arrived gradually at the con- 
clusion that she was getting tired of City 
life, only she had not sufficient moral cou- 
rage to say so. 

^^ Further, I was much concerned about 
Susie. How those children have twined 
themselves into every thought of my life ! 
I imagined I loved them, well six months 
since, but the feeling I had then was by 
comparison superficial to that I bear to- 
wards them now. 

^^ Susie is dangerously ill now; she was 
sickening for that illness then, and the 
doctor told me she must leave town, or that 
a longer journey might be in store for her. 
Will she set out on that without my seeing 
her again — shall I never kiss my child — 
never feel her soft hand in mine — never 



264 Frank Sinclair^ Wife, 

push the hair back from her forehead 
more ? 

'-'• Has it really come to this, that with my 
little one in all probability dying, I am not 
able to go and see her ? I deserved to drink 
a bitter cup for my folly, but surely this 
is draining it to the dregs ! 

*^ To resume my story. Susie was ill; 
the doctor said she ought to have change of 
air. Bella declared it was impossible she 
could leave. It was equally impossible for 
me to send the child to Mulford, under ex- 
isting circumstances ; so I asked Bella 
whether she did not think, as my remaining 
in London seemed useless, that it might be 
well for me to take the children away for a 
fortnight or so to Margate. 

'^ She, I suggested — and it was an ill- 
natured suggestion for which I am now 
sorry — could come down once a week by the 
* Husbands' Boat.' 

" To this Bella assented — not to the 
coming down by that special conveyance, 



Mr. Sinclair's Diary Resumed, 265 

but to the scheme generally. Looking back^ 
I believe she felt my absence would be a 
relief, but of course I could not know this 
by intuition. 

"Ah! my dear, times have changed 
since I read poetry and you darned stockings 
in the Eectory arbour. Perhaps we were 
both hypocrites then, and that poetry was 
as foreign to my nature as darning stockings 
to yours. 

"It is a strange thing that when people 
are married, and no means of escape possible, 
they should take such pains to make one 
another uncomfortable, whilst before the 
knot is tied they lure each other on and on, 
by all manner of sweet devices, to the fatal 
plunge, just as though lovers turned de- 
ceivers for the express purpose of making 
themselves and others wretched. Suppos- 
ing, for instance, I had not read poetry, or 
Eella mended stockings — but what is the 
use of supposing anything about it? My 
poetry has found its realisation in White- 



266 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

cross Street, and Bella's prosaism has en- 
abled her to take a flight out of her own do- 
main, as daring as it has proved disastrous. 

". But to pick up the dropped thread of 
my reminiscences. To Margate I went, in 
order to look out suitable lodgings, and 
having secured these, I started on my re- 
turn to town, via Thames Haven. 

'-^ After I had been on board for a little 
while, I beheld amongst the passengers a 
man whose face I recognised. We had 
done business together for years ; and, un- 
aware that any cause existed for dissatisfac- 
tion, I made my way to him, and, stretch- 
ing out my hand, said cordially — 

'^ ^ Good morning, Allington.' Where- 
upon, to my intense surprise, he thrust both 
his hands into the lowest depths of his 
trousers-pockets, and looked me all over 
without uttering a word. 

" There was a little circle about us in a 
moment. The slight had been too palpable 
to escape attention, and I was too much 



Mr, Sinclair's Diary Resumed, 267 

astonished and dismayed even to make an 
effort to cover my discomfiture. 

"After a second's pause, which seemed 
to me long as eternity, Mr. Allington began 
with an ironical ring in his voice that 
maddened me — 

" ' I am glad to see you looking so well, 
sir.' 

^' ' Thank you,' I said, '- 1 am very well.' 

'' ^ Then, sir, if you are very well, sir, all 
I have to remark is, you are an unprincipled 
vagabond and a liar — and a cheat — a cheat, 
sir ! ' 

" Without any more ado I knocked him 
down ; that is to say, I sent him into the 
arms of an admiring audience, some of whom 
succumbed under his weight, and went 
sprawling on the deck instead. It could 
not be considered a prudent action, but it 
was the only one which occurred to me, and 
I struck straight out as I have said, whilst 
some of the bystanders applauded and others 
cried ^ Shame ! ' " 



268 



. CHAPTEE XXI. 

" A GENTLEMAN TO SEE YOU, SIR ! " 



^^ Foaming with rage, Mr. Allington, so soon 
as he recovered his feet, rushed at me, and 
what the result might have proved had not 
a couple of gentlemen dragged him back, I 
cannot tell ; for my blood was up, and I 
should not have stood nice about the degree 
of punishment I inflicted. 

" However, the gentlemen did interfere, 
for which reason, perhaps, I am now in 
Whitecross Street instead of x^ewgate. 

'' ^ Never mind,' Mr. Allington sputtered, 
almost black in the face from the tight hold 
one man had laid on his high, old-fashioned 



"A Gentleman to See You, Sir P"^ 269 

satin stock — ' ^N'ever mind, yon will live to 
rue this morning's work, Mr. Sinclair. It is 
a fine thing first to rob a creditor and then 
assanlt him. It is brave to sit smoking at 
home and to take yonr pleasure abroad, and 
leave a woman to bear the brunt of a battle 
you have not courage to fight out yourself.' 

" ' If you bring my wife's name into this 
discussion I will kill you,' I answered; and 
I suppose I looked like a murderer, for one 
sailor seized my right arm, and another my 
left. 

^^^ Let me go,' I said; ^the man is safe 
enough for me now, if he will only do as I 
tell him. Mr. AILington,' I went on, ^ it 
seems you have some ground of complaint 
against me, real or fancied. I should like 
to know what that ground is. Am I in your 
debt?' 

^^ ^ As you are well aware.' 

" 'Will you believe me if I declare, on my 
word of honour, that I was not aware of it 
until this moment V 



ayo Frank Si7iclair^s Wife. 

" ' 1^0. A man who has acted as you 
have done, can have no sense of honour left. 
It may be all very well for you to try to 
produce an effect on these gentlemen, but 
you can produce none on me.' 

'' ' I^ot after all the years we have done 
business together ? ' 

" ' Not after all the money I have honestly 
and regularly paid you ?' 

" * No. It is of no use your trying to 
humbug me. I would not believe you now 
on your oath.' 

^'I did not strike him this time. I did 
not answer him. My arms dropped power- 
less by my side, and I walked away to a 
quiet part of the vessel, where I stood for 
the remainder of the journey, looking at the 
Thames. 

" If ever I contemplated self-destruction, 
it was then. If ever death and the river 
tempted me, it was then. If ever I felt 
that the burthen of life could be endured no 
longer, it was then. 



'' A Gentleman to See You^ Sir I ''^ 271 

^^I despised myself — I cursed the folly 
which had brought me into such a predica- 
ment. I felt I could never again hold up 
my head amongst my fellows. By my own 
act I had placed myself outside the pale, 
and all for what ? Ay, there was the rub : 
what had I proposed to myself as the re- 
ward for such madness ? 

^'Now the crisis had come, I could not 
tell what real benefit I ever expected to 
arise from the course adopted. Did I once 
believe circumstances and experience could 
alter Bella's nature ? I now felt how delu- 
sive had been such a hope ; and as I stood 
there writhing under the humiliation I had 
received, smarting because of words which 
had lashed me like scorpions, I determined 
that not for another day should this state of 
things continue. I would go home, have 
my wife's clothes packed up, and then, on 
her return, tell her I had decided she and 
the children must leave town, whilst I re- 
mained behind to strive and save my busi- 
ness from utter shipwreck. 



272 Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

*^ Looking back at it now, I wonder any 
man on board the steamer felt the smallest 
sympathy with me ; but some did. Two or 
three came round after a time, and talked 
kindly and wisely about the disturbance. 
They wanted me to explain matters fully ; 
to justify myself and disprove the words — 
so one of them said — ^ of that over-fed bully;' 
to make peace, another advised, with my 
creditor, if it were possible. 

"Explanation, however, was impossible 
— as impossible as making peace. I could 
not tell any rational human being that all 
the trouble had been brought about by my 
own folly and obstinacy ; that I had actually 
stayed at home and played with the chil- 
dren, and interested myself in the pecula- 
tions of drunken servants, the while ruin 
was coming as fast as it could come — and all 
this because I failed to get a cup of tea on 
my return from business, and entertained a 
rooted dislike to the society of that, no 
doubt, most estimable lady. Miss Myrton. 



'^ A Gentle77ia7i to See You^ Sir!'''' 273 

'^ Wliat an endless journey that seemed ! 
— though it came to an end at last. What 
a contrast the dead calm of Briant View 
Terrace appeared to the scene on the deck 
of the steamer ! I sat down for a time in 
the dining-room, alone, sending even Susie 
away, for the child's fretful restlessness 
worried me beyond measure, and tried to 
brace up my nerves — unstrung as they were 
by the bitter humiliation undergone — but 
the more I thought of the matter, the worse 
I thought of it. 

^^ How was it possible to retrieve my 
position ? I could not even go through the 
Bankruptcy Court and begin the world over 
again. 

*' What was I to do ? With credit de- 
stroyed, with my connection broken up, 
with the memory of unutterable folly weigh- 
ing me down, how could the future ever be 
faced? 

'^ I felt then as, no doubt, many a poor 
wretch has felt when in the grey morning 

VOL. I. T 



274 Frank Sinclair^ Wife, 

light he awoke to the consciousness that a 
ghastly end was at hand — that, incapable of 
altering his doom, he must meet the worst, 
and wait for Calcraft, and the chaplain, and 
the sea of upturned countenances, that had 
all to be faced before he might be permitted 
to slip from the sight and memory of his 
fellows into the presence of his Creator. 

" Elizabeth brought me something to eat, 
but the food remained untouched. Hour 
after hour went by, and the silence seemed 
to deepen — the calm to lengthen itself out, 
a desert of inaction. Presently Bella would 
be home, and I should then have to talk to 
her — ah, Bella! I felt very sorry for you 
that afternoon ; much more so than I do 
now, for you have never written a line to 
me since this trouble came, and I thought 
how it would be best to speak so that I 
might win your confidence, and, if it pleased 
God, win together with it your affection back 
once more. Surely you cared for me once, 
my dear. It could not have been all acting 



"^ Gentleman to See You, Sir!^^ 275 

while you seemed so happy and so loving, 
wliile we strolled side by side together along 
the winding lanes, and across the pleasant 
fields lying all around Mulford. 

" Elizabeth brought in candles, made up 
the fire, for the evening was chilly, and drew 
the curtains. The room looked cheerful and 
warm and homelike, and reminded me of how 
much a man who has gathered household 
gods about him has to lose. Well, I did not 
mean to lose if I could help it. Through 
the open door I heard the voices of my chil- 
dren, subdued, for Elizabeth had told them she 
thought their papa was ill. For their sakes 
I would go back to the City and boldly face 
the sneers of creditors, and the contempt 
of friends. I would acknowledge my sin, 
though not its cause. I would say I meant 
to pay every one, but that I must have time 
given me to see exactly how I stood. The 
first day, I said to myself, would be the 
worst; after that the thing must grow 
easier. 



276 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

'^ I waited anxiously for my wife's return. 
After dinner, sitting before that cheerful 
fire, I meant to commence my story ; and 
like all people who have something unplea- 
sant to do, though I dreaded the approach of 
the moment of explanation, still I wished it 
over. 

'' ' There ! surely that must be she,' I 
thought, and then I marvelled because, 
while the sound of steps came up the garden, 
I had not heard the omnibus stop before the 
house. 

'^ 1^0 ! it was not Bella. My beloved 
availed herself of the doubtful luxury of a 
latch-key, whilst this latter visitor knocked 
imposingly. 

^^ ' Is Mr. Sinclair within ? ' I heard some 
one ask, and Elizabeth answered, ' Yes.' 

" ^ Is he engaged ? ' was the next question, 
and Elizabeth answered, ' Xo ' — adding, 
^ What name please, sir ? ' 

" ^ He would not know my name,' was the 
reply, ' I shall not detain him two minutes.' 



''A Ge7itleman to See Ybuj Sir / ^^ 277 

" Whereupon Elizabeth, opened the door, 
and merely announcing, ^A gentleman to 
see you, sir,' admitted my visitor. 

" I may as well say at once I did not like 
the look of him, although that might have 
been prejudice on my part. 

" There was something about the man's 
face, dress, expression, walk, and manner, 
which filled me, unsuspicious as I was of 
that form of comiDg evil, with a vague fore- 
boding. 

^' The dinner-table was laid, the fire burn- 
ed cheerfully, the furniture was good, the 
apartments respectable. I saw the man 
taking in every detail, and without knowing 
why or wherefore, by some curious instinct, 
I felt as one might do who beholds some 
shrine holy to him profaned — some hitherto 
sacred place rendered ' unclean.' 

'' ^I have come upon rather unpleasant busi- 
ness,' said the stranger, after an awkward bow. 

** ^ Then the sooner we go into it, the 
sooner it will be over,' I replied. 



278 Frank Sinclair's Wife. 

" ^ It is really very disagreeable,' he 
fenced. 

'^ ' Come to tlie point, sir, if you please,' 
was my answer. ^ I am neither a child nor 
a woman, and can bear, I have no doubt, 
whatever it may be you have come to say.' 

^^ ^ It is such an awkward time,' he went 
on, glancing over again at the fire and the 
dinner-table, at the pictures hanging on the 
wall, at the substantial furniture. 

'^ ^ In a word, what is your business ? ' I 
demanded. 

" ^ I have a writ here, at the suit of 
Allington,' he answered, producing it. 
doubt you will be able to arrange the matter 
at once, but still, till it is arranged, I must 
ask you to accompany me.' 

^^^ Where?' I asked. 

'-^ '' Oh ! we will make it as comfortable 
for you as we can. Mr. Sloman will be 
very glad to find you a room.' 

"^Possibly,' I replied, 'but I am not 
going to Mr. Sloman' s. Since Mr. Allington 



'^ A Gentleman to See You^ Sir / ^^ 279 

has elected to take this course, I shall choose 
Whitecross Street. I have not the remotest 
idea how my affairs stand, but Mr. Allington 
shall have no preference out of my estate. 
May I write a couple of notes ? ' 

^^ ' Certainly, sir.' 

^^ ^ Will you take a glass of wine ? ' 

*^ ' Much obliged, sir.' 

" ' Port or sherry ? ' 

^^ 'Whichever is most convenient.' 

'' ' They are both on the table.' 

'^ ' Port, then, if you please, sir.' 

" I poured him out a glassful, which he 
drank off at a gulp. It was inhospitable, 
but I sincerely wished it had choked him. 

'^'Pray help yourself,' I said after a 
pause, looking up from my writing. 

''He coughed and then kindly said he 
would — and he did, first at my invitation 
and then at his own. 

" ' That is very good wine,' he was kind 
enough to remark ; ' if you do not mind, I 
will take another half a glass.' 



28o Frank Sinclair's Wife, 

'^ ^ By all means,' I replied, and he finish- 
ed the decanter. Should it eyer be my lot 
to receive that gentleman in my house again, 
he would, I doubt not, be discreetly civil ; 
but my politeness at that time could scarcely 
be called disinterested." 



END OP VOL. I. 



i 



PBIJfTED BY TATLOB AND CO., 
LITTIB QUEEN" STEEET, LINCOLN'S IBTT PIBLBS, 



^